If you’ve ever tasted the wild fish rillettes from The Bay SmokeHouse you know what’s cooking. Born out of a vision to provide sustainable, healthy and delicious fish products, these award-winning artisan jars of gold are the lovechild of ‘Head Smoker’ Damien Curtis. His inspiration comes from the traditional smoking methods of Europe combined with the primal and deeply satisfying Aboriginal love of fleshy hunted mullet cooked on the coals on the beach, ‘saltwater mob style’.
Damien grew up in France with his mother, who is from a Malaysian background. His love for smoked fish began at an early age with salmon and mackerel staples in their household. Arriving in Australia 13 years ago with a passion for spearfishing, he witnessed the coastal waters teeming with an abundance of wild, oily fish perfect for smoking. Driven by social change and respect for indigenous culture, Damien learnt from the Yolngu people whilst living and hunting along North-Eastern Arnhem Land.
As salmon has become increasingly unsustainable and unhealthy through farming ruining coastlines and creating ocean dead zones, Damien saw an opportunity in the market. “The fatty salmon that we love so much is also full of pesticides, antibiotics and chemical dyes. There needed to be a more ethical and local alternative for consumers.”
He turned his attention to traditionally smoking wild-caught fish species from the clean waters of the North Coast, such as sea mullet, tailor, Spanish mackerel and “the Rolls Royce” for smoking, eel. These oily, plentiful varieties stay moist and carry the salty smoked flavour beautifully. “Something special happens when you combine salt, fat and smoke!”
The fillets are smoked over hardwood and blended with organic raw cashews. His inspiration is very primal – “the satisfaction of targeting just the right fish and the juicy flavour of it cooked over fire, pulling it off the bone with your fingers while sitting on the beach with family. It reconnects us with something so simple and important.”