Why pastry chef Adriano Zumbo loves returning to his hometown of Coonamble. As told to Angie Kelly.
What are your fondest memories of Coonamble?
The people. When you live in a small town, you know everyone and you can walk the streets all day, saying hello. Playing sport is a big memory because there’s not much else to do. Also hanging out at my parents’ supermarket, on the corner of Castlereagh and Aberford streets, working, talking to customers and eating food straight off the shelves!
Describe growing up there.
I found it a happy place. People were always willing to make an effort, whether it was playing sport or helping someone in need. I rode my bike around town and it always felt safe. I remember being at mates’ houses and spending a lot of time playing cricket. I could also be found at the Castlereagh River, running around playing hide-and-seek and digging for water, as it was dry for most of the year.
What took you away?
I moved to Sydney at age 15 to start my apprenticeship. In Year 10, I got work leave from Coonamble High School and moved in with my older sister in Coogee. But I never went back to school. I was in line to take over the family business so it was a big deal.
How often do you go back?
Once a year I visit family and friends. My parents are still there but they’re about to move closer to the coast after being in Coonamble since the 1960s. My sister was there until last year but has moved now. I still have a lot of friends there – it will always be a part of me.
Has it changed much?
Yes. It was busier and more vibrant when I was there. It felt like there was more prosperity – the farmers were happier then. Over the years, the town has lost a lot of people because farmers are struggling with drought and young people move away to look for jobs.
What’s your favourite thing to do there now?
I like to chill and catch up with mates from school. Sydney is very hustle and bustle and you always have something on or places to be but when I go back to Coonamble, I sit down and there’s nothing to do. It’s good! I feel at home.
Name something about Coonamble that you think would surprise outsiders.
The town is home to the biggest rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere, held on the June long weekend. It’s the highlight of the year and a big thing for the town – thousands come to the showground to see it. At the end there’s a ball that the whole town goes to; it can be pretty wild!
What three things should visitors do?
The best is the Bucking Bull Hotel. It’s a bit more hip than the traditional pubs in town and has modern food and DJs. A good daytrip would be to drive to Warrumbungle National Park about an hour away. StarFest is held on the first weekend in October; you can talk to astronomers and look through their collection of telescopes.
This classic country town of about 3000, on the Central West plains of NSW, is a centre for wheat, sheep and cattle farming. It’s also home to the Nickname Hall of Fame. Everyone in town has one – Adriano Zumbo’s, for the record, is “Little Frankie” (named after his dad).