The surf-loving chef famed for his farm-to-table philosophy says mastering food simplicity is a fine art.
The starting point of any raw dish is the very freshest of ingredients, and great storage is equally important as good produce.
“The best place for me to be is in the kitchen, cooking and being part of a team,” says Mark Labrooy, chef and co-founder of the Three Blue Ducks restaurant group. “I love exploring food, playing around with ideas and working with the like-minded people you get in this industry.” The keen surfer fostered a love of the culinary arts early in life thanks to Nils Strömland, his uncle, role model and chef at Fisk. By the age of 18, Mark embarked on a career in the kitchen that saw him earn his first stripes at Tetsuya’s and then Cafe Morso before the travel bug bit. Seven years in the Northern Hemisphere included stops in Morocco and Switzerland, where he added the prestigious Josef, in Zurich, to his CV, and saw him cross paths with his future business partners, Bronte locals Chris Sorrell and Sam Reid-bouquist. When the trio all returned to Sydney the first thing on their minds was to start the business they’d often talked about and, in September 2010, they opened the doors of Three Blue Ducks in Bronte. Combining a winning menu with the sustainability philosophy of using organic, fair-trade, biodynamic and locally sourced produce; comprehensive waste-reduction measures; rainwater harvesting; solar-electricity generation and running a kitchen garden that recycles food waste, Three Blue Ducks saw its business model succeed beyond early expectations. Two more outlets have followed: a restaurant and produce store which opened some two years ago at The Farm – a 33-hectare property in Byron Bay – and another opening in Rosebery, Sydney, last year. For Mark, the ethical business practice extends beyond recycling or food provenance: “I feel responsibility also to the people who depend on us for a living.” While the zucchini that forms the hero of the recipe Mark has created for Pride & Produce can be grown at The Farm, the Ducks in Sydney rely on Cooks Co-op, the brainchild of former Longrain head chef, Martin Boetz. As well as growing vegetables on an 11-hectare property in the Hawkesbury River region of NSW, Boetz has formed a co-operative with other growers in the area to distribute seasonal, freshly harvested produce to a long list of restaurants where food provenance and quality are priority.