You’ll be remiss to stay in Byron Bay’s town centre the next time you visit. Many of the region’s best gems can be found in the surrounding Hinterland. And set to open later this month, Frida’s Field is the hotly anticipated restaurant boasting farm fresh produce, sustainably grown and sourced, and made by one of Australia’s leading chefs, Daniel Medcalf.
We’ve been following the making of Frida’s Field for some time now. All sweeping country hillsides, lush gardens and as close to nature as one can be. Set to open its doors on September 25, the restaurant will function differently than traditional set ups. While you can of course expect restaurant quality food, served simply and honestly, from the best the region has to offer, the restaurant will function around community style dining. Firstly, long lunches. Lengthy, communal tables serving heaped food cooked over coals to small dining groups. There will also be the more casual Friday night offering. Come for sunset and stay for buckets of beers, local wines, coal cooked meats and good company.
The ethos of the farm - and it’s restaurant - is sustainability. Though this is not just a word for owners Edward and Jeannie Rawlings. It is an effort to actively reverse climate change. Sustainability means regenerating the land, planting trees with the aim to sequester carbon and foster biodiversity.
Here we spoke with head chef, Daniel Medcalf on the eve of the restaurant’s opening to speak about finding the joy in simple food, staying close to the land and a summer well spent.
How did you get into food?
I never enjoyed school but was given a chance to do work experience in a kitchen. Which ended up seeing me stepping into one of the busiest restaurants in Byron Bay at the time totally unprepared. I became fully absorbed immediately. There’s a camaraderie and a community in a kitchen you can’t explain.
What is your background?
I’ve dabbled quite a bit. I’m a Byron Bay boy so I began in local kitchens, which is high volume, fast and not very refined. Over the next few years, taking the advice of mentors, I went overseas working as a private chef on yachts in Spain, and in the ski towns of New Zealand before I made my way to Sydney. It’s a move I made to refine my skills and it was a wake up call. Assiette was the first cab off the rank, a two hat traditional French restaurant.
From there Monty Koludrovic took me under his wing and brought me to Icebergs Group and taught me what it meant to really run a kitchen. I was with them for 7 years, working at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar and opening The Dolphin as head chef. Since the end of 2018 I’ve been in Bali, working with George and Cisco Gorrow at The Slow. An unforgettable experience working with such an amazing team that was unfortunately cut short thanks to covid. Now it seems I’ve come full circle. I’m back in Byron and have been given an amazing opportunity to partner with a beautiful cattle property to launch paddock-to-plate eatery Frida’s Field.
What inspired the menu at Frida's Field?
Simple country style food, with a refined edge. I like my food to be fuss-free, fresh, and seasonal like all good chefs.
What is your food/ cooking philosophy?
No bullshit. I like my food unpretentious. Simple, clean, and seasonal.
How does the land/ farm inspire this?
Frida’s has incredible access to seasonal produce right then and there - for a chef there’s nothing more inspiring. Everything possible is sourced on site (including the beef) or from the surrounding Northern Rivers which is home to some of the country’s best producers.
Sustainability is a big focus for Frida's Field - how so?
What can be grown is done within the farm itself, or the immediate surrounds within the Byron Hinterland. We grow the Angus/Wagyu cross cattle on the property, and find the pork for the terrines and roasts from the neighbours’ farms. Self-sustainability is at the core of Frida's mindset. We do everything from rotational farming with the cattle, to incorporating syntropic gardens throughout.
What are your favourite places to eat? Both locally in the Byron Bay region and further afield?
My father’s house. I like a home cooked meal and my dad makes a mean shepherd’s pie. I get my coffee and the congee from Bay Grocer in town, and La Casita does excellent Mexican.
When do you feel most nourished?
Always after a long surf at my secret spot. Drinking some beers with my girlfriend and my dad in my dad’s veggie garden at Sunrise.
What five ingredients are always in your kitchen?
Sherry vinegar, good quality olive oil, homemade pickles, a loaf of sourdough from Bread Social. And Bangalow Pork bacon.
What would your last meal be?
It would be a toss up between a spicy green fish curry and my dad’s chicken pie.
What are you looking forward to this coming summer?
Getting back to my roots and settling down in Byron Shire. Catching some fish, and spending some decent time with my friends and family.
Follow the Frida's Field for seasonal menu updates and a taste of the simple life:
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