Our first Muster – everyone involved kept on saying, your first muster is the hardest. I can safely say that I now know what they are talking about but what they also mentioned is that it is up there with one of the greatest events of all time and that the Kimberley was to blow us away… it did just that.
Late November last year, Heyder & Shears were approached to submit an EOI for the Ord Valley Muster – our proposal was pulled together very swiftly in order to make the deadline. We were invited to explain our ideas within our proposal and eventually, we were successful in securing the tender. How exciting.
H & S had been asked to work alongside a celebrity chef (unknown to us at that point in time) to prepare and cook his/her menu selections whilst said celeb was on stage demonstrating to the guests how to pull it all together at home – The Kimberley Kitchen. The same celeb was to put together a menu for The Durack Dinner; an intimate long table dinner for 85 people only whilst we were all hands on deck cooking and serving. Lastly, the big event – 600pax formal sit down at The Kimberley Moon Experience… we were to do everything for this event, what an opportunity.
We’ve made it home to Perth after 8 intense days in one of the most beautiful parts of Australia, possibly even the world. Here is how our week went:
Of course, Murphy’s Law – the day we were due to fly out, the world’s largest Russian cargo plane was landing as we were set to take off. Every single person in Perth came to see this monstrosity (it wasn’t even that big to be honest), this resulted in gridlock from T2…. Event Manager (me), Executive Chef & Managing Director hopped out of the Uber and ran 2KM, suitcases in tow. Made it to the terminal with minutes to spare – the adventure had begun.
Arriving in Kununurra, things started to pan out much better – an afternoon of wake boarding followed by a quiet dinner set us back on track. We took over the Kununurra Golf Club (thank you for putting up with us) and we built a satellite kitchen that was to be our home for the week, we were in.
We began mentally preparing for our next few days with George Calombaris and his team, what did we have in store? Was he going to be difficult to work with or fantastic? Was he going to be hands on in the kitchen or not? It was all so unknown.
Firstly, we met Guillaume and Reuben – his team! We learnt very quickly that we were all going to get on just fine. They were hands on, willing to jump on the bench and lead the kitchen…. a great start. It’s a huge challenge trying to meld two different teams to work together to achieve a shared outcome – there’s often a million ways of reaching a similar end product.
Then in flew George and Lauren – dream team. George has a lot of banter and a cruel sense of humour, whilst Lauren keeps him in check and ensure he’s not getting too distracted… he’s lucky to have such a wonderful person by his side. Our chefs and George’s chefs worked in the kitchen (golf club) for 2 days to prepare for The Kimberley Kitchen – all of the produce was sourced locally and if not available from local growers then we used local distributers to get in our additional requirements. Giving back to the community is a huge ethos surrounding this prestigious event which we honoured with pride; Heyder & Shears always supports local and we endeavour to keep all our produce West Australian where we can, then trying to keep it in Australia where not.
The Kimberley Kitchen is a 300pax cooking demonstration event; there are rows of chairs (theatre style) under the most beautiful Boab tree we did ever, facing a stage with the backdrop of wetlands and a mountainous landscape rich with red rock. Enter George Calombaris – live on stage he spoke about his upbringing, love for cooking and showed the audience how to cook three of his Greek recipes at home. He is so engaging, silently the guests watched on as we prepared the dishes out the back for tasting. Grilled Tiger Prawn, Watermelon, Olives, Goat’s Curd, Crispy Vine Leaves to start. Followed by Beef Short Rib, Bone Marrow, Red Onion Salad, Horseradish Tzatziki. To finish; Hellenic Mess. Local Indigenous hospitality students kindly volunteered their time to assist us with service – what a great bunch of girls and so hardworking, the dishes flew out of the kitchen and there were clean plates all around.
Another day of prep and we were onto our second event, The Durack Dinner. This event is quite honestly, breathtaking. About 1 hour out of Kununurra towards Lake Argyle, make that 1 ½ in the truck lies Durack House… of course out there phone signal isn’t an option which I think adds to the magic. Durack House has an incredible pioneering story behind it and now it is a heritage listed property that has been preserved along with the history of the Durack family. The small house is lit up beautifully with string bulbs, the bushland has colourful wash lighting to enhance the native vegetation. On the perfectly manicured grass are 4 long tables with candles, Belgian linen napkins and crystal glassware – it really is spectacular. Teddy Carlton, a well-respected and well-recognised indigenous local played the didgeridoo for guests as they arrived into the homestead.
The Durack Dinner is an intimate event for 80 people only; to get a ticket you are to enter a ballot and from there you might, just might secure a ticket. It’s very exclusive, but capping the number of the tickets available is what makes it so special. George Calombaris deigned the menu and we worked closely with him to prepare and serve it in our open air pop-up kitchen.
Canapés on Arrival
Smoked Chicken Drumette
Heirloom Vegetables Feta Whip
Shared Main Course
Short Rib Souvlaki, Bone Marrow Gremolata
Risogalo Mango Compote, Kourabiedes, BBQ Mango
The Aubergine was cooked in our fire pit in amongst the hot coals, then it was stripped of its purple outfit and was oozing with smoky undertones. Our fire pit got a work out that night with the short rib and barramundi also fired up on there – we thought when in the outback at Durack House, do as the pioneers’ would do.
This was such an enjoyable event to work; the dishes flew out of the kitchen and everyone pitched in – all hands on deck to get that food to the table. George led the way, followed by myself, Athan (the Managing Director of H & S), our function managers, staff, chefs and apprentices swarming the floor with plates of food to line the big dark timber tables. We were chatting to guests, explaining what they were eating and answering any queries – we were laughing and joking with them and really interacting, it was unique and really fun. The evening was closed by Rob Broadfield and George Calombaris engaging the guests, thanking them for coming and telling a few interesting stories over some red wine.
We packed up that job and headed back to Kunnurra for a late night of unloading and resetting for the next day. Friday came around and George cooked us all a big lunch, we said our goodbyes and prepared for the biggest event of our week – the Kimberley Moon Experience Corporate Circle.
The Corporate Circle is a 600pax formal dinner which is a part of the Kimberley Moon Experience, a music festival for a few thousand guests. Guests arrive via boat on the Ord, canapés and champagne offered, followed by a formal dinner and a cheese and dessert station to finish. On arrival we had our Heyder & Shears fire pit blazing with Kangaroo Tail, Mud Crabs and Spiced Lamb to name a few. We passed around canapés; beef cured with Hoochery Rum (local distillery) and Silver Cobbler Ceviche amongst many other culinary delights. Guests were seated and we served antipasto to the table with interesting twists like wild boar rillettes. To follow, main course – an alternate drop of Lime Crusted Cone Bay Barramundi and Hay Smoked Sirloin with Chargrilled Field Mushroom on a Polenta Cake for the vegetarian alternative.
The dancefloor picked up soon after main course and the Howard Park wines were flowing, guests were either front and centre for Bernard Fanning (Powderfinger) or making their way over to the dessert and cheese station. Fire Pit Baked Tarte Tartin was the most popular, we cooked it in a skillet over the bbq and flipped it out onto wine barrel lids… guests cut and served themselves. We quickly learnt that the guests had quite the sweet tooth and the desserts were a hit! Wild Passionfruit Curd, Coconut Crumbs, White Chocolate Shards on Pistachio Dacquoise was another of the sweet treats we created for this event. Wheels of cheese and accompaniments were the perfect end to a feast, refuelling the guests for a red wine and some more dancing.
At around midnight, the music died and the lights went up – the 600 guests merrily made their way to the buses parked out the front and safely returned to their beds. We popped on our boots and began to pack it all away, as this time tomorrow we were to be in our beds in Perth with the event as a distant memory. Our 40ft truck was packed well into the wee hours of the morning and we tottled on home for a few hours of kip – wow! What a week!