FULL HOUSE

ADAM BAN­TOCK, A CHEF WITH PLENTY OF BIG-CITY EX­PE­RI­ENCE, NOW RUNS THE MOST POP­U­LAR RESTAU­RANT IN THE SMALL TOWN OF YASS, NSW.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - RECIPES ADAM BAN­TOCK WORDS BAR­BARA SWEENEY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MARK ROPER STYLING HAN­NAH MEPPEM

The lit­tle NSW town of Yass is now home to chef Adam Ban­tock’s Cle­men­tine restau­rant.

UN­LIKE MANY CHEFS, Adam Ban­tock didn’t work his way up the ranks nurs­ing the dream of open­ing his own restau­rant. “I thought run­ning a busi­ness like this, which re­quires such a lot of time and ef­fort, was a crazy idea,” he says. “I loved the en­ergy of the kitchen and the peo­ple... But own­ing my own place? I was al­ways the sol­dier.” Adam’s about face — he and his wife Brooke Sains­bery opened Cle­men­tine in the NSW South­ern Table­lands town of Yass in De­cem­ber 2015 — came about af­ter he re­alised how many good rea­sons there were to open a coun­try restau­rant, de­spite the time and ef­fort it would in­volve. Af­ter start­ing his culi­nary ad­ven­tures as a dish­washer in a Syd­ney sub­ur­ban steak­house when he was a teenager, Adam trained as a chef in the UK, then spent five years work­ing for Aus­tralian restau­ra­teur Michelle Gar­naut in high-oc­tane kitchens in Hong Kong and Shang­hai. “It was an in­tense ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says. Adam and Brooke re­turned to Aus­tralia in 2011 with son An­gus — and daugh­ter Ge­orgie on the way — and set­tled in Mur­rum­bat­e­man. “It was half­way be­tween where my mum and Brooke’s par­ents lived, and we wanted to get out of the con­crete jun­gle,” says Adam. The lo­ca­tion also meant plenty of job op­por­tu­ni­ties in nearby Can­berra: Adam went on to work on the open­ing team of A. Baker, the fab­u­lous restau­rant with in-house bak­ery in the New Ac­ton precinct, and at Tem­po­rada — chef Ben Wil­lis’s hip bar and eatery. This in­tro­duc­tion to coun­try life, where world-class wines were made on his doorstep and good food was pro­duced just down the road, led Adam to con­clude that he should open his own restau­rant. “It dawned on us that Yass, not far from where we were liv­ing, was be­com­ing some­thing. It had a nice, ca­sual en­ergy and we were spend­ing time here; it’s where we shopped and where the kids went to play­group.” They found a sprawl­ing weath­er­board house just off the main street, and trans­formed it into an el­e­gant din­ing room and fam­ily home. The menu is sim­ply Adam’s re­sponse to what pro­duc­ers can de­liver to his door — and he sees a lot of po­ten­tial for food in a re­gion known for wool pro­duc­tion. “As the min­i­mum lot size for ru­ral land changes, we’ll see smaller pro­duc­ers com­ing in and tak­ing the area in a new di­rec­tion.” Adam and Brooke have no re­grets about be­com­ing restau­ra­teurs. “What’s not to like?” says Adam. “We live here in this beau­ti­ful place, I can walk the kids to school and work a coun­try restau­rant week, which is four days in seven. It gives us fam­ily time, which is pre­cious.”

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