With Fiona & Rob. On The Bite, Maclean
Sydney was my hometown and my career in hospitality began when I was fifteen working in McDonald’s. I learnt to make coffee in New Zealand and then worked in cafés and restaurants for a decade. I landed a job working with Paul Wilson and Chris Lucas at their restaurant The Botanical. At the time it was the darling of the Melbourne food scene with a two-hat chef rating. I worked my way up to become part of the management team.
Fiona is a local from a cattle and cane farm at James Creek near Maclean. She worked on and off in hospitality while we were travelling, but mostly worked in finance and superannuation until 2004 when she became a chef. Fiona was lucky enough to get a job with renowned Middle Eastern chef Kurt Sampson. From there she moved to Seamstress Restaurant & Bar and became head chef. It was one of Melbourne’s most exciting new Asian restaurants.
Our menu reflects Fiona’s skill base of Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine. We serve food that we like to eat ourselves.
We left Melbourne and moved here in 2010 to be closer to Fiona’s family. We opened On The Bite in the same year. Hospitality businesses in Melbourne seem to open with a bang to make lots of money in a short period before the hype dies and they are replaced by the next big thing. In Maclean with its smaller population it’s more about long term support from locals and visits from returning tourists. We’re really happy that we opened in Maclean. It’s more of a year-round town than some of the other more touristy places. It’s really interesting getting to know so many different people and it’s a great feeling knowing that they appreciate our food and coffee.
Our menu reflects Fiona’s skill base of Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine. We serve food that we like to eat ourselves. The area has great access to local produce and what we can’t buy we try to grow. We grow herbs like basil and Vietnamese mint and Fiona’s mum also has a productive veggie garden. Occasionally some of our local customers will also bring in a supply of herbs or fruit for us to use. We choose to serve Coffee Supreme, which is an ethical company that source coffee worldwide direct from farmers and are not focused on capital gain.
Our favourite things about living in the Clarence are the pristine beaches, the mountains, the rivers and all the space. Fiona loves beaches and I like the rivers. At the moment we’re enjoying discovering the kayak trail of the Clarence River systems and campgrounds. In our spare time on the weekends, we also like to cook and experiment with food. Fiona loves horse riding and helping out on the family farm. I’m not much good at horse riding myself! We have never even considered moving back to Melbourne. For us the Clarence Valley is as good as it gets.
On The Bite 215 River Street Maclean Open 7am − 4:30pm Mon to Fri
Interviews by Leigh Bancroft. Photographed for Clarity by Gary Parker.