Katrina White spurned convention and found the perfect niche for her stylish fare in north-west New South Wales.

Story By Therese Hall

When Katrina White returned home to Walgett in north-west New South Wales a decade ago, she didn’t expect to stay long. She’d just spent two-and-a-half years working as a chef in Europe and she harboured plans to launch a catering business in Melbourne. “After so long away from home I just wanted to spend six months with my family,” she says.
But Katrina’s sojourn at home brought her much more than a family reunion. It gave her the opportunity to use her culinary skills in the bush. Initially living with her parents, Dennis and Trish O’Brien, on their 16,000-hectare wheat, sheep and cattle property, Cryon Station, near Walgett, she took over her mother’s kitchen to whip up frozen meals for busy rural families and cater for gatherings throughout the district. “I realised that country women didn’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen as they did 20 years ago,” she says. “Many were working and leading busy lives. And when they hosted parties they were happy to socialise rather than being stuck in the kitchen.”
So instead of moving to the city to find success, Katrina approached the bank for a loan to buy an oven, two freezers and a custom-built trailer for on-site food preparation. “I turned one of the bedrooms into my office and the laundry into a washing-up area,” she says. “At first I thought catering for 50 was huge. But after a while I was doing functions for 500.”
By 2007 she had outgrown the limited facilities on the family farm, bought a block of land in nearby Narrabri and custom-built a base that incorporated a large commercial kitchen, coolrooms and a shopfront. Known as Relish Catering, Katrina’s flourishing enterprise caters for functions within a three-hour radius of Narrabri with a permanent staff of four. She has weddings, 21st birthday parties and other special occasions booked months in advance. She even catered for her own wedding in April, a gathering of 200 family and friends at her parents’ property. “The first thing everyone asked me about my wedding plans was, ‘Who’s doing the catering?’” she says. “We catered, of course.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #77

Outback Magazine: June/July 2011