Huge shout out and congratulations to Ben Devlin and Yen Trinh, the gorgeous and genuine couple behind my hometown’s newest restaurant Pipit!
Since opening early this winter, they have been a pretty hot topic in the media world of the hospitality industry. Just recently, Pipit was featured in the June & August issues of Gourmet Traveller and nominated in two categories (New Restaurant of the Year and Sustainability & Innovation) in the Gourmet Traveller 2020 Restaurant Awards! Kinda a big deal!
Over the summer my "#pottermeetschef" relationship blossomed with Ben, connecting and working together to create a unique range of ceramic tableware for his innovative restaurant. Ben was happy to give me room to experiment and play around with different materials and it was great to be aligned with local connections and embrace sustainability. We wanted to keep it classic, simple and timeless - my job was to create a canvas for the artistic food presentation Ben is well known for.
His wood fire grill is a feature in the new open kitchen restaurant, so we infused that story into the clay. The iron bark ash remains were scooped out, sieved and used in the glaze recipes on a number of the pieces.
Excited with the success, we then pushed the ash boundaries to the next level. Ben dropped off buckets full of stinky spent tuna spine bones, that had been stripped of the flesh for his cooking and boiled down so that just the frames remained. Turns out, fish bones, as they come from the sea, have a large amount of salt in them. Salt and electric kiln elements are a lethal combo - I destroyed my precious kiln and am still working on growing my eyebrows back.
All in the name of courage, curiosity and innovation!
I am forever fascinated by anatomy, alchemy and the mystery behind the process of ceramics - so despite the tragedy, we decided to persist. Currently, we are sourcing materials to purpose build a kiln to prepare the bones properly and safely. The goal : fish bone china. Elegant strength, translucent and bonus points for our shared no-waste ethos. After a year of rollercoaster rides in the testing phase, we are only a few steps away from a very gritty win.
I am inspired by Ben's ability to source and create a feast for both the eyes and the pallet, using seasonal ingredients. My Brazilian Cherry tree was producing like mad and I couldn't use them fast enough. I picked a couple buckets worth and dropped off on my walk down to my studio - pretty chuffed they made it on the ever evolving menu at Pipit.
Just sitting with the feeling that this is how true community involvement and collaboration can work - its about making small decisions to bring moments of joy to the everyday and watching it butterfly out.
In the June issue of Gourmet Traveller [PIPIT CHEF BEN DEVLIN ON BUILDING HIS RESTAURANT WITH HIS BARE HANDS] the lovely Fiona Donnelly highlights the importance of the little things that are important to Ben & Trinh. On the point of no compromise, "Ceramics, however, are a non-concessional zone... You can see the result and it supports the community. That makes a difference.” I extend my sincere gratitude to Ben, for believing in me, choosing local, and encouraging me to take the leap into the unknown with the new space.
In the most recent August issue [IS THIS THE MOST ANTICIPATED RESTAURANT OF 2019?] David Matthews writes about the importance of community. “More than anything, Pipit is a community project...the plates and bowls, many of them made by neighbours Grit Ceramics.” The article beautifully highlights Ben’s vision and success. "In building a restaurant with the community and engaging locals to keep it running, he’s excelled.”
I am working hard to build up stock for a gritCERAMICS showroom opening. Dine over at Pipit, then walk a couple doors down to the gritLAB studio and shop your favourite tableware, directly from the hands of the potter.
19 Coronation Ave, Pottsville NSW
Feel free to get in touch to schedule an appointment with Leia in the meantime.