In Food + Drink

The Tale Of Three Blue Ducks: A Rising Force In Australian Dining

Honest food, sandy feet, floral shirts and a name inspired by a Bondi pickup line; Three Blue Ducks is not your typical restaurant group – and hungry diners just can’t get enough.

From an 18-seater café in Bronte in 2010 to the recent opening of a late-night bar and club in Byron Bay, the Ducks are going from strength to strength, with locally sourced, seasonal and sustainable produce at the heart of everything they do.

As co-owner Chris Sorrell describes, the Ducks ethos is about “ethical and authentic food, made with love from mindfully sourced ingredients that don’t hurt our environment”.

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Chris Sorrell says the Ducks ethos is about making ethical and authentic food. Image: Nikki To

After studying a Bachelor of Sport Science, Sorrell left Australia to see the world, travelling and surfing in Portugal, Morocco and Indonesia. It was in Morocco where he formed a friendship with fellow Australian Mark LaBrooy and the idea for the Ducks was born.

How Three Blue Ducks was borne

“Mark and I spent a lot of time together and we always talked about opening a restaurant on a farm where we grew our own food and the whole building and site was a completely closed loop,” he says.

As surfers, fisherman and lovers of the outdoors, Sorrell says a focus on sustainability and the environment was entirely natural, never a conscious hop aboard a bandwagon.

“In the beginning it was just Mark, Sam (Reid-Boquist), and myself,” he says. “We were just three mates doing whatever we wanted to do and what felt right to us.”

“We made food choices and business decisions based on our own ethics and views of what we wanted the world to be, and it just happened to be really similar with lots of other people’s views too.”

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The Three Blue Ducks team is now comprised of six guys. Image: Nikki To

Celebrating the community and environment are core beliefs of the Ducks family. Even the name has a local element to it, though perhaps not in the way many people assume.

It’s not a nursery rhyme. Instead, it’s a shout out to Bondi Boardriders team ‘Blue Ducks’, and, surprisingly, a 50-year-old pick up line Sam and Chris used as early teens in Bronte.

“There is a big park and gully behind Bronte beach, and to get a girl alone at the beach and steal a kiss from her we used to say, ‘Have you seen the blue ducks that live in the gully?’”.

“It never worked,” he admits. “The name was a perfect fit though; it’s cheeky and fun and it rolls off the tongue too.”

The brood has grown to include fellow Bronte local Jeff Bennett; Darren Robertson, former head chef at Tetsuya’s; and, most recently, MasterChef Australia 2012 winner Andy Allen.

Despite the additions to the line-up, the original focus of the Ducks has remained true.

Sustainable eating is easier than you think

Sorrell says to start eating sustainably, shop mindfully and read labels and ask questions. Image: Nikki To

The Ducks have long been advocates of eating sustainably and understanding where your food comes from, with their paddock-to-plate philosophy a big part of their appeal.

Three Blue Ducks at The Farm, an 80-acre food and farming hub at the entrance to Byron Bay, is the biggest and busiest venue, and the true embodiment of that philosophy.

“It’s beautiful visually, but also real and humble at the same time,” Sam describes.

“For a lot of people, it is a great connection to the land and food. Most of the restaurant is outside, surrounded by farmland, eating food grown meters away. What could be better?”

Though many find the idea of switching to sustainable eating at home intimidating, Sorrell believes it’s quite easy to start, and, after the initial plunge, even easier to go deeper.

“It all starts with shopping mindfully,” he says. “Read labels and ask questions about what is in your food and where it comes from and avoid weird ingredients you’ve never heard of.”

Buying local produce and ingredients from farmers markets or small retailers, speaking with growers and learning about shopping seasonally, are easy habits to adopt once you begin.

Expanding the Three Blue Ducks brood

Sorrel says the keys to their success is hard work, honesty and transparency, and having multiple owners. Image: Nikki To

As the Ducks approach their ten-year anniversary in 2020, Sorrel believes the keys to their success have been in hard work, honesty and transparency, and having multiple owners.

“Having five owners for most of the journey, and now six, means there is always someone who is motivated, driven and enthusiastic that is pushing the boundaries,” he says.

“We aren’t the only ones doing what we do, but we do it consistently day in and day out and we do it ourselves, alongside a great team of professionals that are passionate.”

World domination may not be on the cards just yet, but the Ducks are still hungry to try new things, as seen in the recent opening of tapas bar and late-night club Locura in Byron Bay.

“Openings are so fun, as hard as they can be. We are still excited and passionate about the amazing Australian hospitality scene and look forward to seeing where the future takes us.”

(Lead image: The Three Blue Ducks team – Sam Reid Boquist, Chris Sorrell, Andy Allen, Jeff Bennett, Darren Robertson, Mark LaBrooy / Nikko To)

Published 22 March, 2019