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Friday, 31 October 2014

Brendan Cato’s appetite for cooking started earlier than most. We’ve all been elbow deep in mixing bowls and licked the back of a spoon as an ankle biter, but Brendan’s knack for cake baking was probably better than most. 

As a teenager, preparing and eating food quickly grew to become a favorite part of Brendan’s day. Rightly so! As a pro cyclist with the Australian Institute of Sport, his teen years were based in Emilia Romagna – Italy’s finest food region. (I’d spend my days riding around Italy too if it meant never-ending nights of parma ham, reggiano and balsamic).

When Brendan returned to Australia he traded in endless days in the saddle for endless nights in the kitchen: mastering skills and boiling up ideas at Bistro Moncur before starting his own catering company. Before too long, Europe beckoned again and Brendan set sail. This time embarking around the world on super yachts to hone his skills and develop his own signature savor.

After sailing between New Zealand to the South of France and from South America to the Caribbean, Europe won Brendan back. He alighted the yachts to indulge a bit deeper into European cultures and their way of life. It was here that Brendan continued to hunt and forage mushrooms - what was once a mere hobby was quickly becoming a wild passion.

During Brendan’s career the need for a more sustainable approach to cooking and consumption has certainly steered his ship. Any stint at sea will teach you to cook within your means right?

And the same goes for Europe I suspect – Where it is common practice to only eat food that is in season and what is local to your town or village.

Returning once again to the motherland, it was the Bubble’s very own Sean’s Panaroma that polished Cato’s passion for sustainable eating and before too long the ‘The Farmed Table’ concept was born. As a chef, Brendan believes in the power and responsibility he has to educate diners and ‘The Farmed Table’ is an unapologetic testament to that. 

Some might argue Brendan isn’t a chef. He isn’t. He is much more than that. He cares. He is a collector and a curator. You can’t help but adore his humble approach to food.

The respect he has for producers and farmers is poignant in his honest and established simple style. Empowering the produce to be the star of the show, not allowing sauces and condiments to take over.

The first ‘Farmed Table’ was a love gig and focused on the region where he grew up just south of Wollongong – Everything was sourced from local producers and farmers and the menu was set based on only what could be foraged for (including a healthy handful of wild porcinis no doubt).

A bespoke idea overflowing in richness, ‘The Farmed Table’ is more than sharing a meal with friends.

It’s an opportunity to learn about sustainable eating, creative consumption and perhaps try something you’ve never eaten before. Gnaw on some coastal sea plants and chew the - alpaca dairy – phat.

He concedes that along with others in the industry, they collectively have incredible power to influence what people buy and what they eat. If there were more Brendan’s in the bubble, the broader community might begin to understand that tomatoes and strawberries just don’t grow all year round down here.

Brendan has dreams of people becoming more aware and creating a conscious community. “Imagine if every chef decided to put sea mullet on their menu, all of the snapper would be much better off”!

You can experience Brendan’s fine foraging first hand and join a ‘Farmed Table’ as part of the upcoming Cross Street Project.

Grab a ticket to the waste-free intimate event featuring a menu made entirely of local produce. Tables of ten will enjoy a local experience and be blown away by what the bubble has to offer. If you miss out, you can also join Brendan and other conscious consumers who are making more sustainable seafood choices at his workshop: Sustainable Seafood Made Easy.

When not foraging, Brendan can be found hitting up the Bubble locals for some good grub. You’ll sneak a peak at him consciously consuming courses from Sefa Kitchen, Three Blue Ducks (and buying a loaf from Iggy’s) but only if Sean’s doesn’t have a table for him.


Brendan’s Take-Away Tips for your own backyard

  • Local V Imported: Choose local ingredients, not from overseas.  

  • Experiment: Try cooking lesser-known cuts of meat or fish. 

  • “If everybody ate eye fillet and tuna, there wouldn’t be much left”.

  • Buy free range or organic meat. 

  • Waste not, want not: If you have a backyard, start compost or a worm farm for waste. (Head along to the ‘Love food, hate waste’ workshop).

  • Grown your own: Plant a few vegetables and try growing them, understand how hard and how much time it is to get perfectly looking vegetable or more probably less perfect.

  • Eat sensibly: sustainably and seasonally.

Words: Annalyse McLeod

Annalyse is the Head of Strategy at Sydney’s Object: Australian Design Centre. With a larger-than-life love of the ocean and coconuts, Annalyse assures us she was a mermaid in her past life. She eats clean, shares food and moonlights as a writer of cultural pop and topical stuff. 

Photography:Nikki To


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