Tess & James are all about taking a fresh and fun approach to their food
Mockingbird was always our first plan, a café or restaurant of some sort, but its been a bit of a journey to get here.See our handpicked guides to Newcastle
Launching Fennel & Co. Catering in May 2016 the original plan Tess and James had was for it only to be a side project. Things don't always go to plan
as it would seem.
Tess, "I didn’t expect any weddings bookings when we first launched the business, but by July we had seven confirmed, now we’re doing up to five weddings every Saturday".
James, "The business has grown so quickly in the last 2 years as Fennel & Co, and when we were offered the event space at Lindeman’s in the Hunter Valley Tess quit her job straight away, I followed about a year later and in 2017 when we purchased Cranky Chef Catering the corporate side of the business really took off, we’re now doing up to nineteen deliveries in a day".
Tess, "Six months after Cranky Chef coming on board we found this space on Beaumont St which just felt right, I am a believer in signs and there were plenty saying that we were on the right path.
"For a long time, we had been looking for a comfortable space to host our wedding couples in for tastings as well as be able to put more full-time staff on, which is always a challenge when you’re just doing weekend events."
Tess, “We like to hit all the senses with our food, it has to be filling and has to be really well presented because we eat with our eyes first, as well textures and layers and just keeping it interesting. Not the same thing all the time”.
James, “We go to Melbourne every year for a bit of inspiration, all we do is visit cafes and restaurants, so our menu is a little Melbournesque. We have vegan and vegetarian options, it’s vibrant and fresh, but we also want to have that fun factor, I call it fat food [laughs]”.
Tess, “We want to cater to everyone but not have a massive menu and still have that variety”.
James, “We’ve also got the benefit of our prep kitchen on Tudor St which allows us to experiment which we like to do a lot.
“For the catering, we use a lot of different vegetables and instead of throwing the scraps away we’ve started sauteing them so they’re edible and beautiful, like our pesto using carrot tops”.
KEEPING IT LOCAL
James, “We like to source as much local produce as possible like our bacon, for example, we get locally smoked from the Darby St butcher who only sources Australian pork. Our eggs are from a farm 20 minutes out of Cessnock and the farmer is so passionate about his chickens he even sent us photos of them saying 'these are the girls who will be laying your eggs'”.
Tess, “Eventually we’ll have our own beef too, thanks to my dad who grew up on farms, he now has some land up the coast and is farming cows and our first one will be ready by Christmas”.
Tess, "James and I met working at the reopening for the Delany in 2009, from there we’ve worked in a number of different cafes, restaurants and bars in Newcastle. James was approached to work in Sydney at the Quarryman’s Hotel which was a great experience but really long hours and hard when you have a young family. Between the two of us though we’ve pretty much covered all aspects of front of house management, and the back house business side of things.
"Another important aspect of all of our businesses is our staff, we really hand pick our teams, people we trust and people who want to do well, and are hospitality professionals. You’re working with these people for long hours, so we see our staff more as our family."
AND WHY MOCKINGBIRD?
Tess, “The book To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourite books, and when I researched a little more about the Mockingbird I learnt that it can mimic other
birds noises and we saw that as tying back into our idea of the restaurant being for the community.
"Food is our language and one we can all understand - we don't always need words to relate to each other whilst enjoying a meal."