The duo behind Bondi Harvest, Guy Turland and Mark Alston, are only two years into their online cooking show-meets-lads-go-travelling venture, but have already amassed a global fanbase. Elle Macpherson follows them on Instagram; they’ve cooked with Carson Daly on The Today Show in the US; and, after hanging out with him both in the UK and on home turf, they can quite confidently call Jamie Oliver a mate. Their rapid rise may have something to do with their surfer guy looks or their laid-back “all good” Aussie attitudes. But more likely, it’s down to the fact that they just make damn good food.
Currently in New Zealand as part of The Food Show, FQ sat down with the pair to talk about wacky diets, comfort eating without the guilt and what you really should be having for breakfast:
You’ve probably told this story over and over but what are your backgrounds? And how did you two meet and come to work together?
Guy: I’ve always been a chef. My first job was washing dishes and from there I moved up into the kitchen. I left school in Year 12, studied commercial cookery and went straight into one of Sydney’s best restaurants (est.) and then to Icebergs. I bought my first café about 7 or 8 years ago, I think I was 22. It wasn’t so much that I knew I wanted to do this from early on, it’s that I was enjoying what I was doing and from what I’ve been taught, that’s the start of everything good. The idea of us doing online videos and owning restaurants – that’s all growth from a simple idea that I love what I’m doing at the moment, so let’s keep doing it!
Mark: My background is in advertising, film and video production and we met because I wanted to do something more creative. I’ve always been interested in food so a mutual friend introduced us. The initial thing I wanted to make was a little different, but when we met and got along – I was like, let’s scrap that idea and just start filming around Bondi. Real life: surfing, spearfishing, cooking. It was as simple as that. We just wanted to do it for fun.
If you had to summarise your philosophy to food and life in a sentence, what would that be?
Mark: In Bondi there’s no shortage of wacky diets – paleo, vegan, no sugar… Gluten-free is a diet these days rather than a dietary restriction. So our philosophy is more about balance and taking in all those elements of ‘extreme’ and working them into an actual lifestyle. We have paleo recipes in our café and in our cookbook but we’re not paleo dieters. We do have vegan recipes, but we’re not vegan. It’s just good food, good recipes, good flavours – that’s what drives it. And Bondi itself is a really interesting mix of people and lifestyles. It makes for this really interesting combination – soft sand runners in the morning and party animals at night. And that combination kind of informs our food too.
Guy: We call it a Real World Balance.
What does a typical day look like for each of you?
Mark: It depends on if I’m working on Bondi Harvest or not. I’ve just recently moved out of Bondi and out of Sydney – I’ve got a young family and we’ve looked for the beach lifestyle that’s a little less hectic. Generally during the week I’ll commute down to Sydney and we’ll film, racking up a whole bunch of recipes in a row. We’ll check out the Bondi Harvest café and make sure that’s all going well. And other than that, I’m editing videos and writing proposals. And wherever I can, just getting in the water.
Guy: Get salty mate! My day is getting up early in the morning and going for a surf or a run. I go to the cafes, have a coffee, check up on those guys, do some social media posts, write recipes, change menus. And then go for another surf… But it’s a lot of work! It’s 7 days a week and I’m non-stop from 5 in the morning ‘til 7 at night. When everyone gets their weekends off, I’m straight back in the kitchen behind the stoves doing 10 hours plus. Surfing and running, free diving and spearfishing and having the ocean there for me is having a balance – if it wasn’t there I couldn’t work 7 days a week, I’d go completely crazy.
With that kind of active lifestyle, what is the breakfast you would suggest everyone needs to tuck into to kickstart their day?
Guy: Breakfast is actually quite a personal thing – people like their certain bits and pieces – but it’s such an important part of how you wake up and how you start your day. So for me, it’s going to be light and fresh – some avocado, a zucchini brekkie bowl with poached eggs, coffee and a green juice… Just a nice, balanced way to start the day. But it’s so different for everyone.
What inspires you and where do you get your ideas from?
Guy: From everywhere – social media, walking through a supermarket, talking to friends, old recipes that Nan and the family used to cook. I don’t draw inspiration from one place. It’s the ocean, the seasons. It’s a combination of everything, the light bulbs click on and off.
Mark: It’s kind of the environment you’re immersed in.
Guy: And travelling the world and speaking to international friends. Having the ability to see the world and connect with people everywhere, your head almost explodes with ideas.
What’s been your biggest highlight or achievement to date?
Guy: The book that is coming out is pretty massive.
Mark: The real validation of what you are doing is… well, the book is something you can actually hold in your hand and go “wow, look at what we’ve achieved”. Digital has been great and the numbers have been amazing, and the restaurant is great as well. But with this book – we’re really proud of it and I think it’s going to be something that people will love.
There’s a lot of food ‘bloggers’ out there right now – many without any kind of formal training or qualifications in food or nutrition – but they’re getting book deals and are enjoying similar success to yourselves. What is your view on what they’re doing and how do you set yourself apart from everyone else?
Guy: For us, it started from an honest place – we weren’t chasing cash, we weren’t chasing fame. It was me being a chef, doing what I’ve been trained to do and what I love to do, and Mark doing exactly what he loves to do and then putting it out to the world. So it has never stemmed from that place of chasing either of those things – more about wanting to share and loving what we do. It’s who we are and I think people connect with that. There are people out there doing things for the wrong reasons which actually makes life easier for us.
Most people love the idea of putting together nutritious and yummy meals but are pretty time poor these days. What are some quick fixes for getting around this?
Mark: That’s actually what our next book is going to be about!
Guy: It comes down to being organised and having the right things in your kitchen. And being creative. Like slow cooking: Once it’s in the oven, you can go to work, come back and it’ll be done and you’ve got an amazing meal.
Such a #firstworldproblem but sometimes it can be hard to find the inspiration to prepare healthy lunches to take to work. Do you have any ideas or tips to give us that kick up the pants we need?
Guy: I’d suggest our chickpea, trout and mixed nut salad – it’s in a jar. The idea is that you put the dressing – lemon juice and olive oil – at the bottom of the jar and then build the salad on top. You take it to work, turn it upside down and there you go. You can also make a big batch of chia seed pudding – it takes about 5 minutes and you’ve got a healthy breakfast before you go to work so you can have that extra half hour sleep in!
What are the 3 things you have in your fridge at all times?
Guy: Frozen peas are always there, they’re so handy. I’ve always got fruit sitting there – for juices. And bananas in the freezer to blend into smoothies or into cold, fresh bowls. I’ve always got eggs – they’re a good base to work from.
In the winter months it’s not quite Bondi beach weather here in New Zealand! We’re all tempted to give up on healthy foods and comfort eat instead. What’s your fail safe winter recipe that will give us comfort but without the guilt?
Guy: Slow cooking everything is good. Also seafood and soups. Or a nice, light pho is always gorgeous and fresh.
Mark: That’s what I was going to say. I think there are plenty of amazing Asian recipes that are perfect for winter, like pho. It’s a fresh summery idea but in this nice warming way.
Guy: I love winter and the idea of turning those cheap cuts of meat into amazing things with a bit of time and love. As a chef, to know it’s beef cheek time – it’s like “hell yeah”, let’s get some red wine in there, let’s slow cook it.
What is the one recipe from your cookbook that you can’t wait to share with the world?
Mark: I really like the jerk chicken recipe that we have in the cookbook. It is has this pineapple salsa that will just blow your mind. We made it the other day and had some spiced rum – it was pretty good!
Guy: They’re all really good. The slow cooked pastrami beef recipe is out of control. And the avocado chocolate slice that we’re cooking today is healthy and decadent – there’s avocado in there so it’s healthy but it tastes like a chocolate brownie!
What are you most looking forward to about being in New Zealand as part of The Food Show?
Mark: We really wanted to do heaps more than we’ve got time for – we leave on Sunday and our schedules are too busy.
Guy: We’ll definitely have to come back and bring our surfboards and diving gear. We’ll go diving for paua and go surfing and skiing.
So what’s next for Bondi Harvest?
Mark: There’s so much on the horizon. We’ve got so many opportunities with this project – we just want to make the right choices. I think we’ll definitely have a TV series at some point and there is real scope to extend our Bondi Harvest restaurant concept overseas to the UK and the US and even parts of Asia. That whole idea of fresh, simple flavours and the café culture that Australia and New Zealand has cultivated, is just so popular overseas. People are really interested in that.
Guy: Kiwis and Aussies really build a community around their café culture – it’s not just come in, grab a coffee and “see ya later”. It’s a little bit more honest and personal.
Mark: Two years ago we couldn’t have told you that we’d be here… so who knows what’ll happen.
• Bondi Harvest’s cookbook will be available from October. Visit bondiharvest.com for more information.
• You can see Bondi Harvest live at The Food Show, Auckland’s ASB Showgrounds, 30 July – 2 August.