Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham (Mary’s, The Unicorn): My Splendour Bender

The team behind what is now one of Australia’s most iconic burger joints, Mary’s, aren’t messing around when it comes to overturning dagwood dogs and those weirdly shaped chip things to become reigning champions of festival food. Just the other week, the crew were invited up to mega-festival Splendour in the Grass for the second year in the row, setting up a stall at the Gold Bar and also bringing a mobile version of their Paddington pub The Unicorn to the Very Small Suburb. By all accounts, it was another huge success for co-owners Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham, a necessary boost to the festival’s already stacked range of food options.

The Mary’s crew are known for the high dose of energy that puts that extra oomph behind their burgers, no doubt a by-product of the larger-than-life personalities behind the whole thing. We’ve always wondered (okay not always, maybe for like two years) what a music festival is like from the perspective of the more party-oriented food vendors; the ones who help put the greasy fuel behind those mosh pits. With even At The Drive In giving a hefty nod to the crew (Cedric gave Mary’s a shout out mid-set) we thought it’d be a good idea to catch up with Jake and Kenny to talk a bit about their Splendour bender, any differences between this year and last, and more. As a great man once said, “yewwww”.

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This is the second year in a row you guys were asked to head up the Gold Bar at Splendour. How has the overall experience been catering to the VIPers at Splendour and can we expect this to be a regular thing?

We will be there if they have us! Paul and Jess (Splendour owners) and all of the team have become great pals and are good people to get loose with. The Splendour crowd in general are good fucking craic, and the “VIP’s” are the same. Everyone is there to get dirty, a bit messy and always look pretty happy to see a Mary’s sign, so we love them back.

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And you brought The Unicorn this time as well. Now that the mobile version of the pub has broken its festival virginity can we expect to see more of the pop up around?

We loved it, and it looked fucking killer, but we may leave it to be a special Splendour only deal. Its a big operation to take on the road, and the facade alone isn’t a pleasant thing to lug around. We left it up there, so unless someone wants to give us a lift with the fucking thing, that’s where its staying.

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Between the two, any differences from the general public to the gold bar?

Less munted 18 year olds. Full strength booze. Fire pit has no rails around it. False sense of importance. And Mary’s is there.

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When you guys weren’t pumping out food what were the highlights of Splendour?

Getting an onstage shout-out from Cedric from At The Drive In. We closed the shop for their set so the whole team could watch and they must have heard about it. He lauded the decision and said “that shit makes me itchy” … made our fucking weekend. Seeing DMA’s and Sticky Fingers pulling massive crowds made us all very happy. Sigur Ros are obviously aliens who have solved music.

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Aside from the weather, any big differences between this year and last over at Marys’ stall?

The weather makes every difference. We were actually speaking to each other on the 3rd day, unlike last year, where if one of us had caught fire, we all would have warmed our hands around it, whilst calling them a c*nt for making a scene. It was brutal last year, this year was a fucking joy.

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Any strange mod requests?

Always. Fucking people need to understand that they aren’t children, and that they can remove the fucking tomato themselves. Who doesn’t eat fucking tomato’s anyway? 4 year olds and assholes… Fuck OFF!!!!

We had a sign this year that said “No Fuckin Mods”, so that helps to a degree…people still try it on, but we don’t take no guff when that sign has been hung. Little children are the exception. they get what they want. it seems to make parents pretty happy.

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I think this year has been the first so many established food businesses have gone up. Would you encourage more to look towards big festivals like Splendour in the future? What are the main advantages it brings to business?

Being associated with one of the biggest and most beloved festivals in the country is fucking ace for street cred, but people should be ready for a tough time. It’s not easy to do what you do in a controlled environment when you are in a field full of wasted kids. If people think its easy to get service done when your staff are drunk, they got another thing coming.. haha. Festival food has changed so much in the last 5 years, and we love being a part of that. The more the merrier, but it really isn’t for every business.

How’d you guys celebrate post-Splendour?

Splendour is pure hedonism. Post-Splendour for us is about topping up serotonin and creating soothing liver balms. McDonalds and Dominos and Netflix feature pretty heavily. Tracksuit pants get a solid work out.

Mary’s fans in Sydney who haven’t yet tried the award-winning pub grub at The Unicorn can do so at 106 Oxford St, Paddington. Mary’s has two locations – CBD: 154 Castlereagh, Sydney; and Newtown: 6 Mary St, Newtown.

Images: Mary’s