When Zac Roberts and his partner Clare Bourke opened Leche Café on Yamba’s Coldstream Street in 2012, Clare took control of the coffee machine and Zac, through necessity, found himself thrown into the kitchen, turning out ‘avo smash’ and other café favourites.
That was the start of a culinary journey that six years later has evolved into one of the Clarence Valley’s most innovative restaurant menus. In November 2018, Leche morphed in to Karrikin – the name refers to a family of proteins that bind to soil and come to life to renew life in the aftermath of smoke and bushfire – and so Yamba’s growing restaurant scene added another rising star.
These days Zac’s cooking has matured into a passion for creating dishes inspired by years of practice, learning from other chefs and distilling the flavours and ingredients encountered on holidays to far flung cultures including Mexico and Sri Lanka.
“There was a great community at Leche,” said Mr Roberts. “It was focussed around coffee, food, live bands and laughs. Plus, there were countless Clarence Valley farmers, bakers, butchers, fishermen, home growers and suppliers that were the life blood of our food system and helped us design quality meals, made with quality produce.”
“Some great local chefs have worked and shared their knowledge in this kitchen. I learned about Middle Eastern spices from André Rizk, who now runs the Kiosk at Main Beach and picked up new techniques from Simon Birchall who set up Burger Spot. It’s about locals learning from and supporting locals.
Long Lunch event manager Phil Nicholas said, “Zac’s restaurant menu is the one that made me realise there is an authentic Australian cuisine being created by his generation of cooks. After living in this country for eight years, I finally sat down to a meal that represented Australia to me on a plate - kangaroo, macadamia, local bush spices and fruits, washed down with a gin cocktail made in the northern rivers.”
“Zac truly has sustainability in mind when thinking of food production and consumption. He uses interesting Australian bush foods and the presentation is exceptional,” said Mr Nicholas.
Tickets for the Long Lunch featuring the Clarence Valley’s best produce are available from https://gatetoplate.com.au/