Barossa Herald

Harvest Kitchen named top new restaurant

Erica Visser

The dominance of the Barossa Valley within SA's restaurant and catering industry awards is indicative of its growing reputation as a top culinary destination.

That's according to Pete Little, whose 15-month-old business Harvest Kitchen was named best new regional restaurant.

Several other local businesses, including Owen Andrews Catering, Vintners and Fino at Seppeltsfield, also took out awards.  

It's been a busy time for Little, who welcomed the birth of his daughter while taking on the new venture with business partner Tracy Collins, a former MasterChef finalist.

Set alongside the modern tasting room of Artisans of Barossa on the outskirts of Tanunda, Harvest Kitchen prides itself on offering "generous, honest and flavoursome" food.

But for Little, the success was as much about a welcoming environment as culinary prowess. 

"I hire on personality rather than on skills," Little said.

"I want employees who love coming to work and love what they do.

"I keep them happy so they keep the customers happy." 

Part of this lay in Little's determination to create a supportive atmosphere with a strong focus on work-life balance – although the Angaston resident admitted he could be prone to spending "too many" hours a week delivering his passion at the restaurant.

What's happening at Harvest Kitchen is reflective of a wider trend in the Barossa, where the significance of its food is slowly being elevated to that of wine.

"I think how well the Barossa did indicates some changes in the Barossa Valley over the past 12 to 24 months," Little said.

"We've always been an amazing wine region with food to complement that, but we're now reaching a point where we're being taken seriously as a culinary destination.

"We're now seeing people coming to the Barossa and returning within 12 months because they didn't get a chance to experience everything they wanted to." 

 

A former MasterChef contestant takes on a Barossa restaurant

SARAH HUDSON
The Weekly Times

Foodie heaven: Former MasterChef contestant Tracy Collins and business partner Pete Little have launched Harvest Kitchen — a seasonal and communal eatery in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

Foodie heaven: Former MasterChef contestant Tracy Collins and business partner Pete Little have launched Harvest Kitchen — a seasonal and communal eatery in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

BEING a MasterChef contestant is a form of incarceration.

But of the most rewarding kind, says 2014 top-five contestant Tracy Collins of Channel 10’s top-rating cooking show.

“You’re away from home almost six months and in that time you have no TV, no phone, no internet,” Tracy says. “It’s like being thrown into Big Brother. You only have the other contestants and cookbooks.”

It was that long confinement, combined with the intense learning, that has given the 39-year-old mother-of-three the confidence and skills to launch her own restaurant.

Harvest Kitchen opened in March in the Barossa Valley and draws on Tracy’s reality television experiences, and her lifelong love of food to create a seasonal eatery.

Celebrating the Barossa’s produce, the most recent menu features fig and stout short rib beef empanadas, roasted baby carrots with harissa and labneh and pecorino and local smoked hock croquetas.

While Tracy is owner and head chef (alongside business partner Pete Little), Harvest Kitchen also has wines from her own label, Massena, which she started with her winemaker husband, Jaysen Collins, in 1999.

In 2008, Tracy and Jaysen joined with six other small winemakers to open a cellar door called Artisans of Barossa.

It’s next to Artisans that Harvest Kitchen operates.

It’s all a long way from her early career as a hairdresser. Tracy grew up as a fifth-generation Barossa local and says it was her German grandparents who inspired her love of food. “They were largely self-sufficient and made everything from scratch,” she says.

Tracy — who is a lifelong friend of celebrity chef Maggie Beer — began working as a hairdresser but says she applied to be on MasterChef to “throw caution to the wind” and “shake things up”.

The result was life-changing.

MasterChef was such a pressure-cooker environment. When I got out I said, ‘Wow, I have learnt so much, at such an accelerated pace’. The judges are always teaching.”

She says one of the best outcomes from being on the show has been talking to other women.

“I get asked to speak at charity forums now about motivation, having a dream, going for it. A lot of women at home with kids can lose their confidence. People have seen me vulnerable on TV and they tell me they’ve been inspired and supported.”

Masterchef Australia

MasterChef Family Update: Tracy Collins - MasterChef Australia Series 6

Published: 16 May 2015

    See what former MasterChef finalist Tracy Collins is up to

    Fresh from finishing in coveted fifth place on MasterChef 2014, hair-stylist-turned-chef Tracy Collins has gone from strength to strength along her new path in food.

    The South Australian mum of three recently celebrated the opening her own brand new establishment in the heart of the Barossa Valley, Harvest Kitchen.

    Based at Artisans of Barossa cellar door, Harvest Kitchen specialises in seasonal shared dishes and diverse flavours that utilise local produce and locally-made wines. 

    “Harvest Kitchen is about generous, honest and flavoursome food, designed around the seasons and the abundant choice in quality Barossan and South Australian produce we have access to,” Tracy says. “The menu will be constantly evolving as we want to build our dishes around what’s fresh and at our fingertips.”

    Tracy co-founded the communal eatery with business partner and friend Pete Little, a food and wine buff with extensive hospitality experience in the area. The pair aim to redesign the way we order and experience dining out.

    “Whether it be a small bite or a long, lazy lunch, we’re committed to allowing diners to eat when they want, how they want, and to not be locked in by traditional service times and formulaic menu structures,” Pete says.

    While Tracy farewelled the MasterChef kitchen in 2014 just shy of the final few hurdles, she has chased her new direction with passion ever since, fuelled by a life-long love of food. Since leaving the show, Tracy has worked at Adelaide’s prestigious Orana and StreetADL restaurants and has penned a food column for Barossa Living magazine.

    Right now, she’s excited about the future with Harvest Kitchen, open to the public seven days a week. 

    “We aim to complement the existing food and wine establishments of Barossa and South Australia with our own take on a modern day eatery while embracing the convivial environment and excellent wines here at Artisans of Barossa – we’re in great company,” Tracy added.

    Check out this year’s batch of contestants here.

    Visit Harvest Kitchen

    Barossa Cook Inspired by Her Home of Food and Wine

    The Barossa’s Tracy Collins knows a thing or two about the area – she is born and raised a local, growing up alongside cooking and producing royalty.

    The Barossa’s Tracy Collins knows a thing or two about the area – she is born and raised a local, growing up alongside cooking and producing royalty.

    “Growing up in the Barossa, there’s a food and wine connection that you can’t escape,” she says.

    “It’s just part of how you live in the Barossa; there’s always someone growing something or who has excess of something, and you help each other out and cook it up!”

    Tracy always knew food and wine were both passions of hers, but she wasn’t sure on how to bridge the gap between the two.

    In 1999, Tracy and husband Jaysen ventured into the wine business, establishing Massena, one of the members of Artisans of Barossa.

    A business woman at heart, Tracy had a successful hairdressing business behind her and over twenty years of experience in the industry, but the passion for food and cooking was not slowing down.

    It was when Jaysen put a computer in front of Tracy and encouraged her to apply for cooking show Masterchef that she knew she needed to see her passion through.

    “Since Masterchef, I’ve built upon my business skills and done work experience in Adelaide.”

    “I love cooking at home, and cooking for those in the industry, producers and chefs.”

    Tracy says it’s this that inspired her to build Harvest Kitchen, the newest food and wine experience at Artisans of Barossa, Tanunda.

    Tracy says Harvest Kitchen was always a dream of hers, but originally it was intended to be a pop-up for only a few months.

    “But then the space became available at Artisans; Pete (Little) and I cooked a few dinners and decided to open up Harvest Kitchen,” she says.

    Tracy says Harvest Kitchen was the perfect arrangement between her and Pete Little, former sommelier at Appellation at The Louise.

    “The way Pete and I came together; we have very similar backgrounds and do very similar work,” she says.

    “People were always saying, ‘what you’re doing sounds like Pete Little’."

    “So I contacted him and said ‘let’s join forces and do something great’.”

    “We’re very like-minded, we have a similar style and philosophy.”

    Tracy says Harvest Kitchen’s menu will always be evolving with the seasons and available produce.

    “Harvest Kitchen is about generous, honest and flavoursome food, designed around the seasons and the abundant choice in quality Barossa and South Australian produce we have access to,” she says.

    “The menu will be constantly evolving as we want to build our dishes around what’s fresh and at our fingertips.”

    Harvest Kitchen is located at Artisans of Barossa, Tanunda.

    Visit their website for more information.