Tell us about your background and what led you to becoming a producer on the Central Coast
My grandfather Keith Barry started oyster leases in the Hawkesbury back in the 1950s. He had a great affinity with the water, setting Australia’s first world water speed record in 1950 (116kph in a hydroplane Firefly II, very impressive for its era). My dad’s cousin Bill Barry-Cotter is a famous boat builder, who established successful companies Mariner Cruisers, Riviera and Maritimo. After three generations and one million oysters a year, it’s clear that a love of oysters and the water runs through our family veins.
Working with my parents and brother, our oyster farm took life sixteen years ago. In 2013, due to circumstances outside our control, we had to pause operations for a while. Becoming a doctor was my other interest, so I took advantage of the downtime to start my medical degree. In 2019, I hosted my very first oyster farm tour for an alcohol company. The feedback was so good that I set up proper scheduled tours while continuing with my medical studies. I have continued to juggle my two passions over the last few years and will qualify as a doctor during 2023. With the oyster farm tours being so successful, I will focus on those, but I’ll be proud to fulfil my ambition to qualify as a doctor.
What do you enjoy most about connecting with visitors to your business?
This place is amazing! I feel like the oyster farm has been my personal playground. It provides great stress relief with its tranquility and peace. Now I enjoy sharing that playground with visitors to the Central Coast, watching their joy as they discover what is involved in growing oysters. Most people only know about the price of an oyster in a restaurant. When they learn about the labour that goes into oyster production and how one oyster can take four years to grow, it’s a real eye-opener.
What makes your products unique?
Sydney Oyster Farm Tours offers the only in-water dining experience in NSW. Now, here’s a funny story. After setting up my oyster farm tours, a little problem called Covid happened. Social distancing measures made tours very difficult. I came up with the idea of in-water dining, where a group could learn about, shuck and taste oysters outdoors in a unique and Covid-safe environment. I hadn’t realised that this was such a novel idea in NSW… government permits and approvals took two years because it was classed as a ‘restaurant’ in water. I persevered and submitted hundreds of pages of documentation. About three weeks after getting the green light, Covid measures were scrapped!
Fortunately, the uniqueness of the experience has endured and excited people who visit the Central Coast, so it was all worthwhile.
What should people expect when they visit your venue?
People will learn about oysters and how to shuck oysters. The knowledge and practical skill of being able to open your own oyster is really quite special and will certainly impress friends! The atmosphere of standing with other people in the water opening oysters is amazing.
Are you able to give us a preview of any innovative projects (e.g., new products, experiences, promotions or collaborations) that you are working on?
Watch this space! You won’t believe what I am about to do, but it’s still a secret. The Makers Trail will be the first to know so follow the Facebook page and subscribe to the newsletter.
What do you think makes the Central Coast such a great place for people to establish a food or beverage business?
We have so much fresh produce at our fingertips on the Central Coast. People are becoming more interested in the source of their food and, being so close to Sydney and Newcastle, it is easy for people to visit the Central Coast to experience the Makers Trail and producers
Who would you recommend as other ‘must try’ food / drink producers on the Central Coast?
Although Girri Girra is not strictly a producer, I am a huge fan of Tim Selwyn’s foraging, bush tucker and cultural experiences in Bouddi National Park.
What do you think is the best kept secret on the Central Coast?
Based on the reaction of people when they visit the Central Coast, I’d have to say our in-water dining experience. People say they had no idea it was possible to experience something so special and unique in NSW.
When you’re not making awesome food / drink, what do you love doing in your spare time?
I study medicine and love spending time with my four children.