The Story of the Three Blue Ducks begins in the surf. Sam and Chris both Bronte locals, grew up in the area and spent most of their free time in the water. After 5 years of University it was time for Chris to get out of Sydney and even Australia. Europe looked good, and a six months long surf and travel trip turned into a 5 year adventure. While running a small hostel for surfers in Morocco Chris was visited by his mate Sam. A couple months living the simple life surfing some great waves in Morocco showed Sam that he wasn’t happy just working for the Man, he wanted to have his own business.
It was also during his time in Morocco that Chris made another good friend in Mark who was a chance customer in the surf hostel. Mark, who had worked in kitchens since he was 17 years old, grew up in and around Sydney and trained at Tetsuya’s and other first class restaurants. At Tetsuya’s he worked along side an English geezer named Darren, who was some what a mentor to Mark and the two later became great friends. Mark had established Café Morso at Jones Bay Wharf, and worked at several fine-dining restaurants in Europe. While living in Switzerland and working at Joseph’s in Zurich Mark had started to miss the surf at home and in between snowboard seasons he ventured to Morocco. Again another couple of months removed from everything that is meant to be of value, made him question why he didn’t have his own restaurant yet.
After Morocco, Sam and Chris left Africa and flew to Switzerland and the Alps to spend some time Snowboarding. Chris had organized to stay with his mate Mark in Flims, and the three instantly hit it off. One whole week of fresh powder every morning, and partying every other night, and it was time to leave, but a friendship had been cemented. A few months later Mark visited Sam and Chris in Portugal for two months where the seed of new business opportunities really germinated. Sam decided to head home and start his fresh produce box delivery business called Fruit Man Sam. Within weeks it was hugely successful, growing faster than he could have imagined. Mark, after his time in Portugal, went back to Zurich with greater dreams for the future, having got to know two new good mates from Bronte. Chris stayed in Europe and did two more seasons of 6 months in Morocco and another season working in Portugal.
It wasn’t until March in 2010 when Chris and Mark both happened to be back in Sydney on holidays for a few months that a catch up for the trio was possible. Over a few glasses of wine Sam started throwing around the idea of a café/restaurant. A few days later and the idea had become a real possibility, Sam and Mark already scouting out locations. The strip of shops at the top of Bronte on Macpherson Street, or the ‘Top Shops’ as it was known to the locals, with its tight knit community feel looked perfect for a new venture. The core locals had long since been driven away from the beach side cafes, and the boys thought that the old decaying chicken shop would be the perfect location for a small intimate café and restaurant. Right next door a guy called Jeff had just done the same sort of thing to an old takeaway food outlet, he had just opened his pizza shop.
Three months of stripping the shop front out and building the café from the ground up, doing most of the work themselves and calling in a thousand favours from just as many mates. The café was opened in September 2010, with the idea of doing excellent quality food that reflected Mark‘s star studded fine-dining back ground, with amazing coffee by Chris and Sam providing the friendly service in a relaxed café atmosphere.
The first day was a lot busier than they expected. The thoughts of ducking down to the beach for a quick mid morning surf while the other two mates watch the shop never materialized. The Ducks opened their doors with just the three of them working. Sam’s aunty, Pixie, came in for a late breakfast and ended up staying for the rest of the day doing the dishes. That afternoon they hired their first staff member.
From these small beginnings grew what is now an institution amongst the local residence, none of which would have been possible without the incredible support from all of the boys family and friends, some of which still to this day work in the restaurant. Mark’s brother, Grant has been there since the beginning and now looks after the restaurant garden. The garden is not able to recycle all of the restaurants waste but it does do it best. Another person that supported Mark all the way was his old mate Darren Robertson, and after about six months in the two decided to do a pop up dinner in the space under the muse Table Sessions. Darren instantly liked the space. The restaurant is small and noisy, comfortable and warm compared to so many ‘top end of town’ places with their white linen and stiff service staff. The boys decided to do this sort of thing together as much as possible, out of enjoyment and to challenge one another’s skill set; its always so good to have an equal to bounce ideas off.
Next door, Jeff’s pizza business was doing well, but his passion lay elsewhere. Jeff’s long history of time spent on either side of the bar had stowed in him a great interest in the craft beer scene. Jeff had become pretty good friends with the three Ducks, and a regular in the café. Despite being part owner of The Local Tap House in Darlinghurst and St. Kilda, Jeff had been led away from the light and was now not where he wanted to be, and it was Mark he turned to for guidance. In August 2011 Jeff approached his three good mates next door to suggest a merger. It was an obvious move from both sides of the alley, which the two parties already shared. The boys needed more seats and for Jeff it was an opportunity to do what he loved. It was time to get on the tools again, and after a short period of being closed and many months hard work either side the pizza shop was transformed into an extension of the restaurant with more seating and a bar to service the growing number of customers.
A few months later the prospect of starting to serve dinner in the restaurant was real. Everyone was crying out for it, but the restaurant needed more chefs to cover the extra hours of opening. Mark approached Darren, who seems to know everyone in the industry, and asked if knew anyone that was talented and available. After living in Australia for over a decade, and working as the head chef at Tetsuya’s, Darren had been successfully running his pop up Table Sessions dinners and catering, as well as a hundred other projects on the side, including the TOYS collective. It was time to look for a place of his own. One thing lead to another and before long the now four Ducks became five. Darren knew the café well, he loved the area, but most of all loved the philosophy and motives behind it all. Darren was the perfect addition to the Three Blue Ducks, and together with Mark started writing a short but interesting menu, setting out a style of dining that is uncommon in Sydney that showcased both of their cooking styles. Jeff wrote an amazing short beer and wine list, sourced almost entirely from NSW, and the café was turned into a restaurant serving some of Sydney’s best food, beer and wine.
This is the story of the Three Blue Ducks, so far…