It's a big week for Reece Hignell.
In fact, it's quite possibly the biggest week of his life - and that's saying something for this high achiever from Mayfield.
Hignell, who finished fifth in MasterChef Australia: Back to Win last year (one better than his 2018 MasterChef placing), has spent the past three years looking for the right location to house his old-school bakery dream.
He found it at Lindsay Street in Hamilton, close to bustling Beaumont Street but just far enough away that parking isn't a problem.
And he called it Cakeboi.
The bakery is inspired by Hignell's passion for classic, old-school baking - and his beloved Nan - and is an expansion of his successful online cake-making business of the same name.
"I'm stressed, can't you tell?," Hignell asks Food & Wine, laughing.
"We're all done and yet there still seems to be something else to do. The official opening is on Saturday but I have invited a few friends to come in earlier to buy a coffee and a slice of cake as a practice run."
Cakes are the focus at Cakeboi, however other baked goods will also be made on-site including focaccias, savoury brioches and savoury tarts. There is also a small brunch menu - think avocado on toast and house-made granola.
"We're also doing baguettes. Every day we will have two types to choose from, eat in or take away," Hignell said.
There is also a comprehensive range of quality teas and, as for coffee, he's keeping it local.
"I've gone with Floozy. I really like their coffee. On opening day Floozy will have a limited edition Cakeboi Coffee to sell. It's the only day you will be able to buy it. I wanted people to be able to take something home with them."
Hignell had a certain vision in mind for the bakery's interior and is thrilled with the end result.
"It's pink. Yep, it's all pink and it's so pretty. I'm really happy with it," he said.
"It's really clean and light; I can't wait for everybody to see it."
Cakeboi will be open Monday to Saturday, 7am to 1.30pm. Sunday trading will be considered in the coming months.
If you pop along to Saturday's grand opening, keep an eye out for some familiar faces. You might just spy a MasterChef contestant or two.
When asked if he thinks his late Nan would be proud of his bakery, Hignell can't keep the emotion from his voice. Her name was Heather Bates and she called Warners Bay home.
"Oh Lisa, yes, I do. It's been so crazy. I have been getting goosebumps so frequently, even when I've been pulling out the cake tins.
"And the most crazy thing is that my Nan was always known for feeding magpies. Always. Every time you walked out the back of her house there were always so many magpies. And now there's this magpie that comes and visits me at the shop every day, and our builder was like 'That's definitely your Nan'.
"So his name is Swoopy, or Swoopyboi, and he visits every say and I put him on my Instagram because he's just so cute."
And if Swoopyboi ever swoops him?
"Well, I'll know that Nan's not impressed about something," he replied, laughing.
Dudley's hidden gem
The Royal Crown Hotel at Dudley's new Japanese menu is further proof (if you needed any) that its food offering is far removed from your average "pub grub". In fact, it's oceans apart.
The starters include edamame and sea salt; and chicken karaage with Japanese mayo and lemon. As for the sashimi, think Hiramasa kingfish with radish, ponzu, shiso and wasabi; or lightly seared yellowfin tuna with sesame, rice cracker, orange ponzu and chilli.
Mains? They include a tofu or chicken katsu curry; chashu pork ramen; and okonomiyaki (potato cabbage pancake, chashu pork, prawns, Japanese mayo, otafuku sauce and bonito flakes).
And if Japanese isn't your thing, there is still a classic (but not typical) pub menu to order from.
Fresh seafood surprise
So, I received my order from Sydney Seafood School in the early hours of Saturday morning and thoroughly enjoyed preparing and cooking what is considered a fancy meal in my home - spiced swordfish with hummus and preserved lemon salsa, plus a side salad of grilled zucchini, tomatoes and red onion. There was Turkish bread to grill, too.
We used our parrilla charcoal barbecue from Pig & Pilgrim, which always adds a bit of theatre, but you can use a grill or barbecue.
The portions were generous in size, the instructions easy to follow and the flavour combinations simply sensational. All ingredients except pantry staples were provided. Each week the menu changes, with a different kind of seafood fresh from Sydney Fish Market.
Go to sssathome.sydneyfishmarket.com.au for more information. The SSS@Home packs can be delivered to your door or collected from Harris Farm Market at Cooks Hill. Lots of fun and a great gift idea.
Andy Allen hits the road for new series
MasterChef Australia judge Andy Allen has been busy working on a new television series named after his successful restaurant chain. Three Blue Ducks premieres on February 13 at 7pm on 10.
The former Maitland apprentice electrician, who won MasterChef in 2012, hits the road with fellow chefs Mark LaBrooy and Darren Robertson to visit Australia's hottest foodie destinations. His first port of call is Port Stephens, where his family have holidayed for years.
Known for their shared passion for ethical produce, unique eating experiences and love for the bush and ocean, the chefs travel the country with a shared goal: devise a new dish concept, source the produce and test the recipe in the field. Successful dishes will find their way to the Three Blue Ducks menu.