The Bay Smokehouse is a multi-award-winning fish smokery business based near Byron Bay, specialising in traditionally smoked wild-caught fish and related products. It was founded in 2017 by former conservationist, Indigenous rights advocate and documentary filmmaker Damien Curtis, with a focus on using sustainable fish species, supporting local fisheries and showcasing traditional techniques. Its end products are highly sought after gourmet delicacies that have won numerous food awards, including the much-coveted Gold medal at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show for two years running.
Founder Damien Curtis’ love of smoked fish started at an early age, growing up in France and England, where smoked mackerel and salmon were a household staple. Based in Paris, often eating out in restaurants with his parents, he also soon developed a love of gourmet food and fine dining. At university, Damien studied World Religions, with a focus on Indigenous cultures, after which he proceeded to work in Indigenous community-based nature conservation with various organisations in Europe, Africa and South America. He later undertook a Masters degree in Environment and Development from Cambridge University. In 2007, Damien met his partner Sinem Saban, who was a teacher in remote communities in Northeast Arnhem Land, in Australia’s remote Northern Territory. They went on to become award-winning documentary filmmakers together, and produced various campaigns on Indigenous rights in Australia.
It was in Arnhem Land, hunting with the Yolngu peoples, that Damien first experienced mullet cooked over the smoking embers of a campfire, and he was hooked. Upon returning to their home in Byron Bay, Northern NSW, Damien would go spearfishing nearly every day to catch mullet and tailor, and soon began smoking them in small metal boxes, to recreate that primal wood-smoked taste. This also took him back to his early days eating smoked fish in Europe.
In 2017, Damien spotted an opportunity. Whilst everybody in Australia loves their smoked salmon (farmed in Tasmania) and pays a premium for it, nobody had turned their attention to the plentiful and under-utilised local fish species that were just as oily and delicious smoked. And thus began The Bay Smokehouse. Since its launch in early 2017, the business has anchored itself at the heart of all of the major farmers’ markets in the Byron Shire. Top chefs and restaurants in the area now feature their smoked mullet on their menus, including the prestigious Rae’s on Watego’s. The company has picked up a suite of awards, including Silver at the Australian Food Awards for their Smoked Mullet, and Gold two years running for their Smoked Fish Rillettes (both times the only Gold medal at the top of the Dip class). And celebrity chefs like Shannon Bennett and Pete Evans have got behind the product, the latter calling it “one of the best flavours ever”.