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How a chef turned a pest into a thing of beauty

Chef Simon Hart was onto a winner when he began making chopping boards out of camphor wood in early 2010. It’s such a beautiful wood, with an intoxicating smell and anti-bacterial properties that make it perfect for kitchen use.

But there was something even more remarkable at play when Hart set up Byron Bay Chopping Boards and turned his passion into a business. Camphor Laurel was introduced into Australia from Asia in 1822. It’s a large, attractive tree, but it can be very destructive as it kills off native vegetation.

Along the waterways of northern NSW and south-east Queensland, Camphor Laurel trees grow aggressively, replacing native vegetation and reducing native animals food sources. Removing them allows native trees like the blue gum to flourish, which is the main food source of koalas.

Travelling through the beautiful hinterland of Byron Bay, Hart saw an opportunity to turn these invasive trees into chopping boards. Excited at the wood’s unique properties, he began making boards for other chefs and friends, testing the dimensions and finishes to arrive at the ideal food surface.

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