Food from (famous) friends

Journalists Chris Bath and Jim Wilson have covered some of the world’s biggest events for network television and radio. Now they have launched a culinary venture, Wollombi Kitchen.

They are both high profile broadcasters. They have interviewed presidents and prime ministers, covered multiple Olympic Games and the Ashes, and brought us live coverage of elections, natural disasters, tragedies or royal weddings.

But when the bright studio lights are turned off, Chris and Jim share a passion for sustainability and for simple food done well; for regional Australia and for supporting and connecting with their local community. To put passion into practice, they have recently teamed up with hospitality pros and longtime friends Karen and Simon Harris to open Wollombi Kitchen, a restaurant and café-cum- bakery where it’s all about celebrating the quality of local produce and the exquisite versatility of Hunter wines.

Located in a gorgeous, century-old sandstone building in the centre of town, they have added a take-away café at the front and a seating area in the blissfully serene and peaceful garden at the back.

“It is very much viewed as a community space by locals,” Chris shared.

“We want everyone to feel welcome, to have a glass of wine and a tasty meal, to chat and relax, to have a true Wollombi experience.”

Step inside and you might spot a familiar face behind the counter, doing the dishes with aplomb. Jim Wilson can’t hide his towering six ft. plus presence anywhere, much less behind the counter of this quaint little restaurant.

Behind him, through the kitchen door, someone is whizzing back and forth between the ovens and the cool room. Is that really Chris Bath expertly plating up locally made cheese?

Lending their name to a restaurant isn’t uncommon for celebrities across the globe. But few will be as committed and hands-on as these two.

Jim has curated an entirely local wine list, catering to every palate and wallet. You will find bottles from Noyce Brothers next door, from Undercliff and Wollombi Wines, but also from Tyrrell’s, Tamburlaine, Usher Tinkler and Winmark. The menu is pleasingly concise and to the point, driven by the seasons and Chris’s success as a permaculture inspired gardener.

“We’re still in our infancy, but we do expect to eventually broaden the menu,” she said. “We also want to start selling condiments on offer in the restaurant.

“I’ve been experimenting with a green tomato chutney and made green chili jam from a huge glut I had last year. Guests have been losing their minds over our salad dressing, and we made a fennel jam that goes superbly with chicken.

“I initially wanted to call the restaurant ‘Food from Friends’, because I’ve stolen or been gifted recipes from so many friends over time. I’m not a trained chef, but our philosophy at Wollombi Kitchen is simple food done well.

The cafe and restaurant is located in a gorgeous sandstone building in the centre of town.
Chris and Jim have launched their new venture together with longtime friends Karen and Simon Harris.

Chris and Jim’s love for great food and for regional Australia may be shared by many, but not everyone ends up opening a restaurant to prove it.

Read more in our Summer Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography courtesy of Frank Schulze.