Chef Jessica Boardman manages to successfully run two local businesses: The Diggers Tavern in Bellingen and also her catering business, Jessica Boardman Private Catering.
She runs the Diggers kitchen and the catering hand in hand, which means she is always sourcing and turning over the freshest (and often local) ingredients. She really is very passionate about fine dining and prides herself on food that is not only delicious, but well presented and supplied by a friendly and professional team.
Hey Jess. Tell us about your connection to the Coffs Coast.
I’ve spent most of my life here, working in various restaurants in Coffs Harbour and the surrounding areas.
Food has been a lifelong passion of yours. When did it all begin?
I started my apprenticeship at the age of 15 and have been cooking ever since. I wanted to gain as much industry knowledge as I could, so I have moved around quite a bit and also worked in front of house and bar roles.
You run the kitchen at the Diggers Tavern in Bellingen and also have a catering business. How do find juggling both roles?
They work seamlessly together, and I’m lucky to have a dual business like this to bounce the catering and in-house work off each other. I have one team, and we all work together to complete in house work and catering jobs. Everyone has their role, and it works perfectly.
What sort of events do you usually cater for?
Pretty much anything. Weddings are the most popular, we do private tents at the races, private parties (birthdays, baby showers), business lunches and Christmas parties, woodfire pizza stalls at festivals, degustation and three course private dinners for small groups.
You recently got married yourself. After catering for so many weddings, how did you prepare for your own big day?
I had my company do the catering, and they did an amazing job! I really am blessed with great staff. We had so many different elements, and they were all over it.
Did you get involved with the food preparation, or did you leave it with your team?
I helped with the planning and gave specific instructions, but other than that my team took care of everything (even the 150 macaroons for the favours!) I certainly put the pressure on for this one. We had a grazing table, canapés, desserts and a wood fire pizza station, plus a bar. I wouldn’t have had it any other way; it was lovely having them there.
What would you say are some of your signature dishes, or what style of food do you most enjoy cooking?
I personally love Italian cookery, making my own fettucine, ravioli, tortellini, as well as their desserts like tiramisu, cannoli, semifreddo, panna cotta, granita.
All fine dining styles of cooking, delicate food and things I can make look vibrant and beautiful on the plate.
I love making things from scratch and supporting local suppliers, getting the freshest ingredients I can.
How important is fresh produce to you in your meals?
Super important! I use the freshest ingredients I can, and this is one of the benefits to having the restaurant as well as the catering company; we get a high turnover of ingredients and can order fresh nearly every day. Not only are fresh fruit and vegetables important, but so are the meats and seafood I use; our sources are the freshest for seafood and meats and are of a high quality.
Do you work with local suppliers?
The best I can. Sometimes you must outsource to get the things you need, but for the most part I support local.
Do you have any particular goals for yourself and your businesses for the future?
I would like to have my own wedding venue, hopefully near our beautiful home. I already have the spot picked out where I want it built. I love catering for wedding days; it is so nice to be a part of that special moment for couples. The whole experience is so happy.
A production kitchen is on the list; soon we will be too busy for the tavern, and I will need more space to prepare food for the businesses.
I would also be interested in becoming semi self-sustainable by growing a lot of my own produce and speciality items such as micro herbs.