Biota Dining, located an hour-and-a-half south of Sydney and 30 kilometres east of the coast, has had rooms available for some time now. While its natural Southern Highland splendour is enough to wow any visitor, head chef James Viles and the team wanted to give guests more to do besides eating at the restaurant.

To remedy this, they’ve put together 6 workshops in the Biota tradition, so guests can learn about the venue’s food sourcing, gathering, growing and production processes.

Viles stresses that these workshops are not cooking classes. “They’re about getting outside and really doing things, growing things, foraging for ingredients and getting your hands dirty,” he says. Viles’ sustainable menu has been in the spotlight for the past few years. The ingredients are taken from Biota’s Bowral setting, a condition that may seem limiting, but not for Viles. When asked about Biota’s microclimate, he emphasised the “Incredible variety, heaps of it still unexplored”; a variety he’s keen to introduce Biota guests to in an “interactive way”.

The workshop format consists of a Thursday evening arrival, dinner and a plant-based cocktail so workshop participants get to know each other. They can then retire to one of Biota’s 12 handsome lodgings and reconvene for brunch the next morning before starting their workshops.

Buying a whole animal and self-butchering it – a skill Viles learnt when he was 14 – could be an activity Biota offers in the future.

The six workshops include:
The Garden Experience, where you’ll spend time in Biota’s 35-metre polytunnel and learn about crop rotation and seed propagation, plant seedlings and pick botanicals with the chefs before using them to cook a seasonal dish.

The Backyard BBQ teaches you to use the Robert Plumb Bollywood oven.

Fermentation is all about preservation and its health benefits. Participants will learn about plant enzymes and how to make their own mead.

Natural bread making includes instruction for making five types of bread on Biota’s stone-based oven. This workshop is Viles’ personal favourite (“It’s alive! Making your own bread just feels great”), and something he believes “everyone should know how to do”.

Single origin grains will teach you why they’re important and to mill them fresh with your own hands and cook with them.

Cooking with Vegetables will properly acquaint you with leeks, potatoes and brussels sprouts. You’ll gather seasonal vegetables on-site and be introduced to new ways of cooking them, making the best use of their properties.

At the moment each of the six workshops has two scheduled dates set three months apart. The workshops cost $300 per person. To reserve your spot visit biotadining.com/workshops.