Lincoln Kirchner’s face lights up when he talks about how his smoked seafood concepts evolve from heart to head to hand.
“I am an inventor at heart,” Lincoln said. “I always look at things and think there is a way to do it better. It drives everyone around me mad, but it’s part of being an artist.”
The former tradesman and professional fisherman suffered an injury at work a few years ago and was lying in bed at the Royal Brisbane Hospital when the idea for a new smoker came to him.
“I’d smoked meat for most of my life,” Lincoln said. “I’m the third generation. My family came over from Germany and smoked wurst and bacon and fish. The salt content was higher, smoking and drying times were longer, so it wasn’t necessarily for taste. It was for preservation because they didn’t have refrigeration.
“I enjoyed watching the barbecue revolution that was taking place, but everyone was doing American style ribs and brisket. I started experimenting, and fish kept coming back to the front for me.”
After what he describes as his “light bulb moment”, Lincoln spent months “foraging the internet”, researching and sketching his own smoking system.
“It was eight or nine months until I was well enough to get on my feet, and my father and I made a prototype,” he said. “We made five or six until we settled on one that worked well enough.”
Lincoln’s cousin and business partner, Luke Truant skippered super yachts overseas and now owns Truansea Fishing Charters.
“Lincoln hit me up to join him and I thought ‘why not, sounds like a wild ride’, so together we started The Seafood Smokery Bundaberg,” Luke said. “Lincoln’s father and my mum grew up on the banks of the Euleilah Creek near Rules Beach. Our grandfather was a professional fisherman on Baffle Creek.”
The pair enjoy an easy camaraderie, where their skillsets complement each other, rather than conflict.
“Lincoln is the visionary,” Luke said. “I look at the food laws and standards and all the compliance requirements. So I often hinder a lot of his artistic creativity,” he laughed. “Lincoln’s initial trial products at home were delicious, but they did not comply with food safety laws. And when we did comply, the product was rubbish, so we had to reverse engineer the process. It took a lot of inventiveness and sleepless nights.”
Not only did Lincoln invent his own smoker, the duo have pioneered an entirely unique process for creating smoked seafood products.
The fresh fish they source is sustainably caught and ethically handled, with full traceability. “We buy direct from highly experienced local fisherman, who understand the first 30 seconds after a fish is caught is crucial to getting the best quality fillets. We use the Japanese technique, Ike-Jimi,” Luke said.
Their highly involved brine process, which was accidentally discovered through laziness, ensures their products aren’t “fishy”. The moisture reduction gives Seafood Smokery products a substantive, “meaty” quality while somehow retaining the lightness that fresh Australian seafood is known for.
They collect macadamia timber and other hardwoods from local farms, before it is washed and hand shaved to create their own secret, custom blend of wood chips.
“There has been a lot of trial and error,” Lincoln admitted. “Because we only use fresh, wild caught seafood, what we do is kind of like a vintage in the boutique wine industry. Fat content in wild fish varies greatly throughout the year. Seasonality, environmental changes, our woodchips and the level of humidity at particular times of year can influence the final product.”
It’s clear Lincoln and Luke love the creative and technical process, as much as they enjoy the end result. And that’s no easy feat, considering their products have earned them a swag of gold, silver and bronze medals at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show. Their Macadamia Smoked Blue Salmon took out Champion Specialty Product at the 2019 Sydney Royal Fine Food Show. Delicate on the palate and yet robust enough to handle some heat, the versatility of their unique products quickly made The Seafood Smokery a firm favourite amongst some of Australia’s best chefs.
Shortly after the fanfare, just two years into their business journey, COVID-19 forced the overnight closure of eateries right across the country and overseas. Many small business owners in their situation would have given up. But Lincoln and Luke opened their processing facility to the public, and adapted their business model from wholesale to retail.
“We are enjoying talking to people about our products and giving them serving suggestions and cooking tips,” Luke said. “My favourite is our Macadamia Smoked Mackerel, served cold on a soft taco with an avocado and mango salsa.”
Lincoln said his favourite was no secret. “It’s got to be the Champion Macadamia Smoked Blue Salmon. It’s very versatile and handles heat well. I like it on toast for breakfast.”
Buy direct from their waterfront processing facility at The Port of Bundaberg.
145 Buss Street, Burnett Heads. 10am – 4pm Monday to Friday. www.theseafoodsmokery.com.au