Darren Robertson’s extensive experience as a chef seems to outstrip his appearance. He developed his cooking skills in kitchens around Kent and Sussex, before hitting his stride at Michelin-starred Gravetye Manor under chef Mark Raffan.
In 2001 he moved to Australia to work with Tetsuya Wakuda, eventually becoming head chef of Tetsuya’s. Darren also assisted Tetsuya at The World Summit of Gastronomy in 2009.
In 2010 Robertson spread his wings and started The Table Sessions,a ‘guerrilla dining’ organization that runs pop-up dinners in warehouses, parks, beaches, gardens, rooftops, galleries and theatres as well as cafés and restaurants.
In 2011 Darren went into business with a group of food crazy friends at Three Blue Ducks, a small cool café located a short stroll up the hill from Bronte Beach. The Three Blue Ducks had recently won Best Breakfast in Sydney accolade by the SMH Good Food guide within it’s first year of opening.
The cafe expanded and is now open for dinner. The menu’s dishes are set at $17 and as Robertson says, “not fine dining, more neighborhood restaurant using really good ingredients”. He cooks alongside Mark LaBrooy and Shannon Debreceny (also ex Tetsuya), there is no Head Chef.
Menu items include; calamari and smoked corn; mussels, clams and beach spinach; egg blood cake, apples and beets.
The Three Blue Ducks was awarded 15 out of 20 by Terry Durack in the SMH in 2012
BISTRO interviewed Darren Robertson
BISTRO:What were the main take aways you learnt from working with Tetsuya Wakuda?
Darren Robertson: …Don’t panic, be true to yourself and believe that anything is possible.
B:In the past eighteen months you have attended several world ranked food events including Omnivore in New York and the Crave International Food Festival. What really stood out for you at these events in regards to trends?
DR:The message is to start respecting mother nature, think about where food comes from and treat it with respect. Of course technique is important but the emphasis is now back to the produce.
B:Can pop -up restaurants like Table Sessions be profitable as an ongoing business?
DR:It probably could, but it wasn’t the reason I started it. There are definitely easier ways to make money!
B:Will Table Sessions continue? What is scheduled for 2012?
DR:Yes, I had to put it on hold for 2 months as I had a cooking event overseas and joined the Three Blue Ducks.But I’m already working on events for the rest of the year. I have my eye on several exciting spaces I want to use.I’ll still collaborate with other chefs but I’m also going to work with Danielle O’Keefe who will create sound scapes involve artists, set designers and so forth to create something completely different.
B:Tell us a little about Three Blue Ducks
DR:The Three Blue Ducks is a Cafe in Bronte.It was opened a year and a half ago by Mark LaBrooy, Chris Sorrel and Sam Reid, whom are all incredibly passionate about food and the environment. The food had always been really tasty,they have been into sustainably local ingredients from the day it opened. The guys won Best Breakfast in Sydney within the first year of opening. There is a herb garden at the back of the cafe and the place has an amazing atmosphere. I went into business with them last year along with Jeff Bennet (a craft beer whiz). There are now five owners whom all have a roll within the business.We started the dinners at the end of last year and the place is going well.We have a great deal of support and awesome feedback which we are all incredibly grateful for.
B:You are well known for foraging for ingredients. What are the more unusual discoveries you have uncovered in Sydney?
DR:Shannon,one of our chefs discovered a new herb just around the corner from the restaurant. None of us knew what it was but after a lot of research it turned out to be Wandering Dock a beautiful tangy leaf, it’s now on the menu with an Ox tongue. Very happy about that find!
B:Any of these ingredients make appearances at Three Blue Ducks?
DR:Yes all the time…Sea lettuce, Warrigal greens, Purslane, Chickweek it just depends on whats in season.
B:Can real fresh be produced or does it really need to be picked from the wild.
DR:The wild is great, but we also have plenty of suppliers whom have incredible produce.They do the real work, without those we’re nothing.
B:How would you describe the Sydney restaurant scene at the moment
DR:Lots happening at the moment so many great chefs in Sydney. It really depends on where the next generation take it. Tom Limb, Dan Hong, Dan Puscuss, Luke Powell, Colin Fassnidge too many to mention.There are so many good restaurants opening all the time.There is still a place for fine dining but casual dining seems to be where it’s at right now.
B:Plans post Three Blue Ducks
DR:We’ll see… anything’s possible