KITCHEN WHIZ: Celebrity chef Clayton Donovan is thrilled to be back in the area to show off his culinary skills.
KITCHEN WHIZ: Celebrity chef Clayton Donovan is thrilled to be back in the area to show off his culinary skills. Marc Stapelberg

Chef v. wild and diners at Ballina RSL are the victors

INDIGENOUS TV chef Clayton Donovan, from ABC's Wild Kitchen, was the surprise chef at Ballina RSL's latest degustation event.

Held every three months, last night's degustation presented six small courses for just over $10 each - a good deal considering the calibre of cooking on offer.

Contemporary Australian cuisine with a bush tucker twist, including "roosciutto" with aniseed myrtle onion relish and witches broomstick smoked mushrooms with Nimbin goat curd, was popular with the crowd, which booked out the event well in advance.

Mr Donovan, the owner of Jaaning tree pop-up restaurant, said the degustation's cuisine was representative of Australian bush foods' growing influence worldwide.

"It's quite in vogue, not only in Australia but around the world," he said.

"I was contemporary trained so I focus on a contemporary style food with a bush food twist.

"People can get something outside of the box from lemon myrtle - like quandong, wattle seed, strawberry gum or mountain pepper.

"It's a good way to showcase the foods in a contemporary way without giving people a dish where they're eating a raw branch or something."

Mr Donovan believed the world's top culinary masterminds were catching on.

"You've got probably the top 10 chefs around the world who are utilising bush foods in their cuisine now," he said.

The Mid North Coast man, who was raised in Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung land, started learning about native produce from his aunties and grandmothers at the age of four.

But Mr Donovan has spent quite a bit of time in the Northern Rivers over the years and studied at Ballina High School briefly.

"My late grandmother used to live here so I spent a lot of time coming up for holidays," he said.

"I've been in Sydney for 10 years, then over in London for five years and when you come back you run into people you know. We've all got a little older though."

Having spent a lot of time on the road lately, Mr Donovan will return to TV screens on December 6 for the new season of Wild Kitchen.


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