Chef David Campbell: ‘Everything we eat has lived in some form and we need to respect that.’

With diners becoming more interested in where their food comes from, it’s wonderful to see chefs taking the lead in sourcing humanely produced ingredients.

David Campbell is one such chef. His enthusiasm for local and sustainable produce has been a recurring theme throughout his career. After working with legends including Neil Perry, Kylie Kwong and Tetsuya Wakuda, he went on to become a restaurateur in his own right. David opened The Book Kitchen in Sydney’s Surry Hills before moving to the NSW South Coast, where he is now the owner and operator of Nowra’s Wharf Rd Restaurant and the Hungry Duck in Berry.

Although the two venues offer different dining experiences (Wharf Rd serves contemporary Australian cuisine while Hungry Duck is renowned for its Asian fusion fare), both place an important focus on offering higher welfare products. In fact, they are the only two restaurants on the South Coast to be listed as being ‘humane food all the way’ on the RSPCA’s humane food directory, Choose Wisely.

We spoke to David about his love of cooking, his interest in farming and his advice to businesses looking to offer humanely farmed products.

David, thank you so much for joining us. Did you always want to work with food?
Yes, always, even when I was little I gravitated to the kitchen. Interest is why you become a chef, passion is why you stay a chef. 

You’ve worked with amazing chefs including Neil Perry and Kylie Kwong. What was one of the most valuable things you learned from working with these (fellow) greats?
To appreciate produce. Everything we eat has lived in some form and we need to respect that. If we can understand the provenance, we can appreciate the product even more. 

Both Hungry Duck and Wharf Rd source cage-free eggs, as well as higher welfare pork and chicken. How did this come about?
The reason we moved to the South Coast was to be closer to produce and understand how and why it was farmed. When you start to get involved you realise how important it is to love your land and what it produces. 

Why is sourcing humanely farmed produce important to you?
It tastes better! You can taste the love from a farm you have been to and you know how much the farmer loves his animals and that they would do everything possible to give them a good healthy life.

What advice would you give to restaurants and cafes looking to offer humane food?
Take a bit of time to research. It’s not hard to find out where your food comes from and make an informed choice. Your customers will appreciate the effort. 

Finally, you create beautiful and delicious food for your customers. But what do you enjoy cooking and eating when you’re at home?
Food straight from our farm. Nothing better than a fresh laid egg scrambled with some basil and parsley for breakfast.

What more? The RSPCA Choose Wisely initiative makes it easy to find venues putting humane food on the menu. Simply type your postcode into the search engine and you’ll be able to see which restaurants and cafes in your area are offering higher welfare options.

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