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