Men on a Mission
At Nanna Kerrs' Kitchen
Matty and Jimmy Kerr aren’t afraid to think big. For most people, throwing in their corporate careers to move to a new region and open their own restaurant is a large enough leap of faith.
But three years after the couple swapped the cramped city surrounds of Sydney for the rolling hillsides of the Hunter; the Kerrs have their sights set on a far grander plan: to have Kerr’s Organic become Australia’s most recognisable organic brand.
While locals and visitors alike know Matty and Jimmy as the welcoming faces behind the counter at Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen in Pokolbin, what they may not realise is that the charming 100-seat eatery is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their organic-based dreams.
The pair are on a mission to transform Australia’s health and wellness through organic lifestyle experiences, a journey that began in 2015 with their decision to open Nanna’ Kerr’s Kitchen. ► Offering a warm and welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of the real Nanna Kerr’s house in Gunnedah, the restaurant serves wholesome, homemade food, made with love, using as much organic and local produce as possible.
Nanna Kerr’s has now firmly cemented its place in the region’s vibrant restaurant scene, and while Jimmy said it had been a rollercoaster ride to get to this point, there’s been more highs than lows in the journey so far.
“We celebrated three years of Nanna Kerr's in August,” he said. “Total rollercoaster of a journey but we think we've learnt enough now to plan a bigger, better future.
“I’m back in the kitchen as Head Chef with a signature menu that celebrates local, gluten-free and vegan. Matty continues to lead the front of house experience ensuring that everyone gets a dose of traditional country hospitality.”
The restaurant is open for brunch, lunch and high teas seven days a week, with a menu of “really wholesome, healthy food that tastes indulgent”.
“Our menu is 100 per cent pesticide free and on a good week is up to 95 per cent organic.”
“The kitchen garden continues to grow, and this year we’ve served up cauliflower, sprouts, chilli, celery and an array of herbs and flowers grown on site to diners,” Jimmy said.
“Our specials menu has a ‘once it's gone, it's gone’ approach to ensure that we are using as much local fruit and vegetables as we can and honouring the seasons.
“We are also working with Little Hill Farm, Merrifield Farm, Hunter Natural and the Newcastle Fisherman's Co-operative for all our proteins.
“As active members of Hunter Valley Slow Food, our menu is all about being good, clean and fair. We are also experimenting with vegan options as there is a huge crossover between that community and the organic community.
“Big hits are our vegan and gluten-free sticky date, and ginger coconut custard along with gluten-free gnocchi and our vegan cheese board, which is all created on the premises.” Jimmy said the biggest growth area for the restaurant so far has been through private dining bookings.
“We are closed to the public in the evening but available for functions for as little as 12 people,” he said. “As a family-friendly spot, we often have a 40th birthday dinner booked on a Saturday night that sees a few prams, toddlers and even childminders joining the party. “We don't have a set menu, so it's pretty special for the client being able to work with us to design their own dinner, and it’s the only ‘on grass’ outdoor dining space right next to the vines in the valley, which is very special indeed.”
But Matty and Jimmy haven’t just been working on expanding their clientele of diners at Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen.Kerr’s Organic is a multi-faceted business that also includes an organic condiments range, a private dining and pop-up restaurant service (feast.), and party-in-a-box kits for both adults and children’s parties (Party Pax), all delivered with the distinctive Kerr’s Organic style.
The Kerrs’ wide range of delicious organic jams, relishes and chutneys are available via their online store and are stocked in a number of retail outlets. The vegan range of products is made with 100 per cent Australian organic fruits and vegetables in a nut-free environment and contains around 60 per cent less sugar than most other products on the market.
“Our condiments range is now stocked in more than a dozen Hunter retailers along with national health food website Inner Origin,” Jimmy said.
“Since May we have sold almost three tonnes of relish, chutney and jam all made with certified organic fruit and vegetables. Tastings and sales are seven days at the restaurant.
“Feast. is our pop-up and private dining business and it is growing fast. Initially focused on catering in private holiday homes for visitors to the Hunter we have now also been to Melbourne and Perth. “
In September we also catered Lake Macquarie's inaugural Dinner Under the Stars for their annual Sustainable Living Festival.”Jimmy said Feast. has a number of exciting catering jobs coming up, including Macquariedale Organic Wines’ new release winemaker’s dinner on October 13 (at Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen), and Not the Cup: A cruelty-free/vegan evening for 300 guests at 48 Watt Street that was being organised to raise funds for the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses.If all this wasn’t enough, Jimmy said he and Matty were also working on a new project to establish an organic produce farm in the Hunter Valley.
Despite a couple of false starts, the couple is hoping to create a crowdfunding campaign for the project that would “involve the local community and the organic community nationally”, with the aim of being able to deliver on the paddock to plate philosophy “in a very special way”.