Having shifted from Robe to the Adelaide Hills, chef Tom Tilbury chats about the momentum behind his family business Gather Food & Wine ahead of two Tasting Australia events this week.
As the name suggests, Gather Food and Wine has a hand in the foraging world, but there’s more to it than that, says Tom Tilbury. It’s about bringing the right people together to create unique experiences as well as gathering wild and local ingredients.
“It’s about sourcing the best ingredients, finding wild ingredients and also gathering people in our business who are like-minded and customers who want to have a great time,” he says. “It has a few background meanings but it’s just our way of living really.”
While foraging and utilising hyper-local produce has come distinctly into vogue over the past decade, it is natural ground for Tilbury. Having grown up in McLaren Vale with parents who worked farms and vineyards, he was always exposed to the surrounding land and agriculture.
“It’s really just a natural thing I grew up with,” he says. “Basically just to substitute what was available to us, we would just go and pick wild stuff as well. It was pretty special. We knew where all the fruit trees were, the olives and wild garlic. We would preserve heaps of stuff through the seasons. It was quite a nice way to live.”
Tilbury and his wife Sarah established the restaurant Gather Food and Wine in Robe, which became a summer favourite for locals and visitors alike. But the business has now shifted to the Adelaide Hills, working under the Gather brand in events and bespoke catering in the short-term with an eye to something bigger in the near future.
“We’ve been working quite hard on something new,” says Tilbury, cryptically. “We’re continuing along the same lines with our ethos, but gaining strength and support in different fields. Basically watch this space. We set up events to keep the momentum going, but we’re definitely looking into the future. There’s something pretty cool on the horizon.”
In the very near future, Tilbury will be participating in two Tasting Australia events. Naturale in Victoria Square’s Glasshouse Kitchen will see Tilbury collaborating with Brooklyn’s Carlo Mirachi of the two Michelin-starred Blanca, Dave Verheul from Melbourne’s Embla, and Brent Savage from The Bentley in Sydney, while This is the Limestone Coast will be see Tilbury cooking closer to Robe.
“There’s a fair bit of difference in the way they’re set up,” says Tilbury of the events. “The one in Robe is pretty casual and should be a fun affair where it’s a long lunch and people are chatting with winemakers playing a part in serving and collaborating. The other one will be a real connection thing between the chefs. I’m quite looking forward to doing both of them.”
Tilbury aims to maintain his connections to the state’s south east as well, with a few events lined up in the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival and Art in the Sticks at Lucindale this year.
“We built up quite good relationships down there, which I want to still maintain,” he says. “There are such amazing producers and people down that way. It’s part of our story so we’ll keep those things rolling along and keep people connected to what we do.”
The shift to the Adelaide Hills is a natural one for Tilbury, though, as he maintains quite the soft-spot for the hills right over to McLaren Vale. And, of course, proximity to the city is always useful for sourcing unique produce from across the country and penetrating a wider market of regular diners.
“It’s all pretty close by and easy to access now,” he says. “Being close to the city centre, we can also get other stuff. We’re pretty local-oriented, but we like to get things from further away that you can’t get here, like northern New South Wales fruit and stuff like that… I mean, Coffin Bay oysters, I’m not going to shy away from that when I can get my hands on it, and I can get stuff from all over the country if I need to.”
Pressed for detail on Gather’s next move, and whether it will be a fixed business, Tilbury is tight-lipped, but does give a wink of detail.
“Yep, it’ll be bricks and mortar,” he says. “Still regional but closer to the CBD because we’re in the hills. We’re communicating with a few people and working things out at the moment.”
Glasshouse Kitchen, Victoria Square
Thursday, April 20
Tickets via tastingaustralia.com.au
This is the Limestone Coast
Saturday, April 21
Tickets via tastingaustralia.com.au