Interview: Newtown Locals talk food and drink at the 38th annual Newtown Festival

Newtown Locals is a collection of the inner west neighbourhood’s greatest food and drink purveyors, and each year the group comes together at the annual Newtown Festival to offer up special collaborative dishes designed to showcase the communal spirit of the area. Once again, the community cook-offs will aim at providing some much needed funds to Newtown Neighbourhood Centre’s First Response, and once again they will be dishing up some exclusives to help fuel the full day of live music, entertainment, markets, and general sense of Newtown being the forever thriving and unique hub it is.

The AU Review caught up with a few Newtown Locals to get the low down on what to expect from the menus this year, as well as look back on the huge community festival and its long history.

Newtown Locals has been bringing a new angle to the food and drink at Newtown Festival for the past few years, what are the things you love most about the concept and collective?

JAMIE NIMMO (STINKING BISHOPS): Getting to know some amazing characters in your local area and knowing that we all get along and can work together for a charity. Also, I don’t think I have ever paid for a beer at Young Henry’s, but charity, collaboration, expanding your horizon and getting to know how other chefs work and think is also good as well.

CASS BALACKI (212 BLU): I love that it’s a collaboration of some of the best masterminds in the business. What NL is doing for the community is nothing I’ve seen before, the fact that everyone gives up not only their spare time and skills but also their hearts into making this community a better place, it’s a beautiful thing with beautiful people.

JAKE SMYTH (MARY’S): Its community cooking, for community, to help community!!! Feeding much needed funds to the vulnerable in our neighbourhood has always been the aim of the Newtown Locals, but watching a group of driven individuals create something new and fresh and collaborative is the finest part. Its fun and stressful and painful and beautiful all at once, and it serves as such a poignant reminder about our role within community, one of support and nurture.

NICK SMITH (RISING SUN): Newtown Locals is about making the statement that rather than just food and beverage vendors, restaurants and bars can be agents of change in our community. Individually we share a common ideal that hospitality starts in your own neighbourhood and our venues are hubs from which we share our loves with our community. As a collective, against the backdrop of the Newtown Festival, we have the chance to broadcast this idea large and loud to a wider audience and make a substantial donation to the Neighbourhood Centre in process.

What have been some of your best memories of Newtown Festival?

JAMIE NIMMO (STINKING BISHOPS): Footy passing young henry beers down the line to all sections, savoury and sweet. Everyone united by a thirst and passion to work together and play together.

CASS BALACKI (212 BLU): To be honest, I haven’t spent much time at the festival as we’re always stuck in the cafe on the day, this year though I’m really going to enjoy being at the festival with my little one and showing her what a great community she gets to grow up in.

JAKE SMYTH (MARY’S): The dog show, every year is a fucking blast. It has been run by the same lady for years and for some locals, the only part they never miss. The first year the NL got involved and watching chefs drop like flies from working service all weekend, cook all night, set-up, cook all day and try to pack up. We were wrecked, but the feeling was shared, and the hysteria spread into the evening.

What was the process in coming up with your chosen dishes with your partnering local and where did the inspiration for this dishes come from?

JAMIE NIMMO (STINKING BISHOPS): Inspired by the umami flavours of Japan and the creamy cheesy goodness of bechamel. The best inspiration happened while intoxicated with ramen at Rising Sun and in the midst of a cheese sweat at The Stinking Bishops.

The Stinking Bishops will team with Rising Sun Workshop to offer some twists on the classic hot dog. More information linked to below.

CASS BALACKI (212 BLU): We wanted something that was familiar to all of us, delicious and easy to eat at a festival. If you can smash a kebab when you’re 20 beers deep why can’t you smash one at a festival after 2 beers.

212 Blu will team with Continental Deli, Oscillate Wildly, and Stanbuli on a selection of gourmet kebabs. More information linked to below.

JAKE SMYTH (MARY’S): This year, we wanted to focus on upping the ante on the money we raised, so the challenge was “what is cost-effective (read cheap haha), fast as fuck to cook and most importantly, delicious? The collabs were decided and the conversations that happened within those were all centred around the core consideration of “lets raise as much as possible”. Creativity is borne from poverty, so it was great to strip things back to their core and explore technique rather than produce to coax flavour.

Mary’s and Hartsyard have come up with some interesting tacos for the festival. More information linked to below.

For full details and a list of what collaborative dishes to expect from the Newtown Locals click HERE

The 38th Annual Newtown Festival takes place at Camperdown Park on Sunday 13th November.