Byron Bay (NSW): Steven Snow - Fins Seafood Restaurant

The right combination of fresh

By Louise Johnson
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Renowned Australian chef, Steven Snow, author of Byron Cooking and Eating

Renowned Australian chef, Steven Snow, author of Byron Cooking and Eating [©Steven Snow]

 

Snowy (Steven Snow) is very excited about his cookbook. It’s a great time for food enthusiasts at the moment, and “for me it’s particularly good. I’ve just released my first cookbook,” he announces when I call him to talk about Byron Cooking and Eating.

“It’s a serious book isn’t it? It’s cool,” he says. And he’s proud of his efforts, and they were massive, in putting together this work of beauty. “I could have looked at it and cringed and thought: “how’s this going out after all this work”, but i look at it and I feel really happy. I’m very proud of it.”

Snowy is pleased to break the stereotype that is popular in publishing at the moment. “As a rule they’re all about the angst ridden chef out in the back alley smoking cigarettes before they go and do battle with the customers – my one’s got peace and love in it. I’m happy. It’s got that organic feel - you stand on your head and do whatever you do,” he says. And he does stand on his head - there’s a photo in his book showing him doing just that.

Snowy built his reputation at Brunswick Heads when he took over the dilapidated, bankrupt, and some said “jinxed”, restaurant called Fins which sat on a bend in the Brunswick River.

“Fins at Brunwick was quirky – the front staff would set the outside tables with a complimentary bottle of insect spray so customers were armed to do battle with the sandflies. Even so, there were famous people, high court judges, local folk and others ... bribing our waiters to secure a table,” he says. After eight years Fins moved to The Beach Hotel at Byron, a step up in class from Brunswick Heads. In 2007 the hotel was sold and Snowy moved again, this time to Salt Village at South Kingscliff, north of Byron, where he had the chance to design his ultimate dining venue.

“As well as a fine-dining restaurant it has a sexy tapas bar and a takeaway service to boot. It is still by the sea, our fish still line-caught and the menu similar. We have a united nations of chefs, a grand sommelier and plenty of things Portuguese ... and I am cooking most nights after doing fish deals at 6am.”

He’s a driven chef and when he’s not at Fins, he’s probably on the road, as a guest chef somewhere in the world. “I go everywhere as a guest chef and when I do I like to put on a show for the people. It’s incumbent on you to do some extremely good and, hopefully, eye-opening food,” he says.

But touring is also about learning. “Because I’m in all these other places I would be crazy if I didn’t meet people and learn from them. Some of the best things I’ve learnt are from old people - grandmas and people like that that have shown me different tricks with what they do when they have an abundance of produce in their areas.”

Local produce is the key, he says. “My favourite food is food that is not transported from far flung areas. I’ve learnt the importance of using local, very local, produce. If you use what’s very fresh and very local and match it with local chefs who have an understanding of the produce and add some local wine, you’ve got a one plus one equals 27!”

Of course there’s a place for importing some things. “Anyone who’s eaten caviar will understand why there’s always a place on the table for that,” he says. But living in Northern New South Wales, and being a congenial sort of fellow, Snowy generally has first pick of some of the greatest produce in the world.

“I get wild fish, line-caught, it’s ikejime’d in the Japanese method so it’s brain dead, and when i fillet that fish it’s amazing - it’s got like the technicoloured things happening and all the enzymes are intact and it’s just beautiful.”

Snowy follows the philosophy of food combining, a system that keeps carbohydrate foods separate from protein foods in your daily diet, which is said to improve digestion and general health.

“In essence it's [food combining] about eating food in ways so that they combine and convert into a good energy in your stomach because they’re not fighting for passage. People might skip dessert at the end of a meal and have fruit because fruit's healthy, well I would argue you are probably just as good having the chocolate cake because at the end of the day if you’ve got a protein and you’ve got some carbs sitting in your stomach, you put fruit on top of that and that’s when you feel sick. It sits there and ferments because it’s got to wait for the protein to pass through you,” he says.

Byron Cooking and Eating opens with the statement: “my intention in this book is to give away as many secrets and impart as much knowledge as I can about my style of cooking using seafood and organic produce.”

So what’s the best secret in the book?

“When I’ve taught master classes, and I’ve had all the heavy hitters like Tetsuya Wakuda there, I’ve taught a thing that I learnt from a lady in Portugal called a Lisbon Paste, and it is one of the most amazing tricks that I’ve ever learnt.”

A simplified recipe is included in the “basics” section of the book, but Snowy’s restaurant version involves blistering capsicums and salting them with coarse sea salt, weighing them down and leaving them for a few days to dehydrate. After rinsing and boiling the capsicums to rid them of salt, he cooks them with olive oil, garlic and smoked paprika and blends them to make a paste.

“... but what you do with that very vibrant red paste after you’ve blended it with oil and garlic, you can add lemon juice and use it as a barbeque marinade, so you’ve got the favours of the char grill mixed in with the sweetness of the peppers and it’s just wow. It really lends a backbone to dishes - the flavours in that are amazing. That is really something that brings your cooking miles in front, that little thing.”

Snowy’s hot three local suppliers:

  1. Bay Seafood – Corner Fletcher and Lawson Streets, Byron Bay. 02 6685 5660
    They’re very good, great fish.
     
  2. Bangalow farmers markets – held every Saturday 8am to 11am - Byron Street (in the Bangalow Hotel Carpark). 02 6687 1137
    They love me, when I walk in they throw their hats in the air because they know I buy cases of everything.
     
  3. Gwydir Grove – 35 Brissett Street, Inverell . 02 6721 2727
    We’re buying our olive oil from them. They’re fantastic.

Regions

  • North Coast NSW (NSW)

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