Fire in your belly

At newly hatted restaurant Yellow Billy, chef Sam Alexander and sommélier Pat Hester are fanning award-winning culinary flames.

Having met working together at Newcastle’s Reserve Wine Bar, Pat and Sam made such a great team they began looking for a venue to start a restaurant of their own. When a space next to Piggs Peake Wines’ cellar door on Pokolbin’s Hermitage Road came up, they “jumped at the chance,” says Pat.

With enough space for a kitchen garden and a massive outdoor fire pit, the duo decided to combine a paddock to plate, minimal waste philosophy with fire-centred cooking methods. It played to Sam’s self-proclaimed obsession with fire and his strengths as a chef and made for a unique offering in the Valley’s hospitality scene.

“From a very young age I’ve been fascinated by fire and I’ve been very lucky in my career in that I’ve worked at a lot of places where woodfire or charcoal grills were used,” Sam explains. “Everything we do here is organic and locally focused and our menu changes fortnightly driven by the availability of seasonal produce.

“We get about 40% of our veggies and herbs from our on-site garden and we buy whole pigs from a small farmer up the coast. All our fish are line caught or from sustainably working farms,” he adds.
Sam grew up with Middle Eastern flavour profiles and his training centred on classic European cooking styles. At Yellow Billy, he has started to cast a wider culinary net: “We started with Mediterranean inspired dishes. Now, if a country, a cuisine is utilising fire, we’re happy to look at it and to see how it might fit.”

Their menu offers two and three course banquet options with matching premium wines. Pulled pork is cooked for eight hours over the outdoor firepit, then goes into the oven for a slow roast, before it’s pulled apart the next morning. With a richly flavoured, smokey barbecue glaze it’s a Yellow Billy take on an American classic. Flank steak sizzles on the custom built parilla grill over a wood fire and spatchcock comes with a vinaigrette in tangy southeast Asian flavours.

Read more Yellow Billy in the Autumn Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Photography by Dom Cherry and Megan Johns-Kane, MJKCreative, courtesy of Yellow Billy