Every Sunday morning sixty loaves of their bread run out the door of the Crabbes Creek General Store. And to think it all came about because Jon, a builder, was making brick ovens…
Anyone who has been to the Mullumbimby Farmers Market could hardly fail to notice the set-up of Jonathon and Gina Hutton, portable wood-fired oven and all. Relative newcomers, they have already acquired a band of followers who cannot get enough of their slow-roast honey pumpkin pizza, or their prawn one, or the chicken one with Jon’s special ‘secret recipe’ sauce. They are still sliding pizzas into flat cardboard boxes by the time I arrive, at market’s end; there’s no sign of their bread, which sold out a long time ago.
Hard to believe that this young, good-looking couple have, within the space of ten years, met, fallen in love, produced three children and established a flourishing little baking business – without any relevant background at all, unless you count Jon’s stint in a Thai restaurant in Sydney and Gina’s odd-jobbing as barmaid to supplement her profession as an art teacher. Hard to believe they can both look so positively relaxed, as if they are absolutely enjoying themselves, when you find out they have – or certainly Jon the baker has – been up since 3am.
They met in Sydney at a bar where Gina was working, and bought a little camper van to travel around the country. In the area for Bluesfest they thought they would check out properties for sale. ‘As soon as we drove into Crabbes Creek,’ Jon tells me, ‘we decided we wanted to live there. So three months later we were up here. That was 2002 – we’d only known each other a year. We got married on the property.’
Making pizzas had started out as a way of putting Jon’s newly built oven to use as well as a social conduit: Friday night would see a gang of their friends standing around the wood-fired oven with beers while Jon whipped out the homemade pizzas. He started playing around with bread recipes, eventually coming up with a formula that satisfied him. ‘Jon’s very clever with portions and mathematics,’ Gina says. ‘I’m the creative one who comes up with the interesting ideas!’ They trotted along thirty loaves to their local store ‘and they all went!’ Now customers from Pottsville and the Gold Coast will drive all the way specifically to pick up bread from Crabbes Creek. The couple have created a monster – they can never take Sundays off because it would be letting those people down. Pumpkin, macadamia and honey, and linseed are the varieties sold there, although their repertoire runs to about 13 different types of bread in all.
Barring ingredients like flour, everything they make is locally sourced. Gina tells me that a lot of bartering goes on, either amongst neighbours or other market stallholders – oil and olives and mushrooms – and they also plunder from a small garden on their 50 acres, which yields herbs, tomatoes and spinach.
Meanwhile Jon’s reputation spreads. He helped fix up the 99-year-old brick oven at Newrybar’s Harvest Cafe and is currently building a wood- fired oven for Murray’s Place in Murwillumbah – where three nights a week he is also doing the pizzas.
As for his market oven, it’s a marvel. Jon fitted out a flat-top trailer, building up a screen around it and an oven on top. There’s a wash-up bay and fire extinguisher and, to come, a stainless steel bench. Compact, clean and cute as can be. ‘This has all been really quick,’ Gina tells me. ‘Getting into this market, doing more and more functions – we don’t even have our website yet!’ So you will simply have to go along in person and taste their wares – Mullum Farmers Market or Crabbes Creek store on Sunday mornings. Just get there early.