In the Kitchen with Jessie Baker from BEES UP TOP
We sat down with Jessie from BEES UP TOP in her newly built kitchen while she made a Honey Walnut Banana Loaf and shed light on her life. Mum to George, Superwoman to the Bees and Hill St's newest muse.
BEES UP TOP rescue bee swarms before the exterminator is called in and re-home them. The best bit? They take those rescue bees and put them in urban beehives in gardens and on rooftops. Your bees then collect local honey, which the team at BEES UP TOP extract and give to you in personalised honey jars!
The journey to BEES UP TOP started when Jessie and her Husband Luke came across a house that had a beehive in the backyard. Their soon to be flatmate had been keeping bees for 30 years and had the most magical garden you could ever imagine; banana trees, blueberry trees, chickens and of course, bees, all hidden away in an urban area. The moment Jessie knew she was hooked was the day she realised she needed a new queen bee for the hive. She ordered one from the internet, it took seven hours to arrive by aeroplane and the postman delivered it straight to her door!
Tell us about your home and your kitchen
We started building this house when I was pregnant with George. During the build, we lived in the little cabin out the back of the property, with an outdoor kitchen and shower off the side and lived there through lockdown. We built this home knowing that it wasn’t going to be our forever home. We wanted a green kitchen to pull through the deep green colours of the surrounding bush but decided we would design this kitchen to be black and keep the green for our forever home. Luke made the walnut bench, he slogged his guts out after work, shaping it down to the beautiful bench that it now is.
Tell us about your family and traditions
We have a big family, I’m the eldest of 4. We have grown up around food and my siblings are chefs so we love to cook and all have a drink together, being busy in the kitchen. Our Mum and Dad live out at Bethells Beach where our bee sanctuary is. The house out at Bethells is legendary, it’s like a revolving door of people on their travels. Everyone knows of the Baker house. It’s so much fun! We have a family tradition of a smoked pie competition. The boys have to cook and the girls sit down and wear their pinnies and judge the best pie. That happens in the summer when the boys are out fishing and we have lots of fish to get through.
What is your go-to recipe?
Tagliatelle pasta with Mushrooms and Lemon - you chop the mushrooms and marinate them in the lemon, cook the pasta and mix the lemon mushroom mix through, add some spinach and grate rind, salt, pepper, oil and LOTS of parmesan and pine nuts. So simple and so delish!
Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that you’d become a beekeeper?
Never - I think about what I’m doing now and it buzzes me out (no pun intended!) that I’m putting beehives on rooftops and that’s my full time job. I used to be a graphic designer so I worked in a lot of offices and now I couldn’t ever go back, it’s amazing to find something that you love. I mean, look where I am now, who would have ever thought that Hill St would come to my kitchen to bake with the honey I make. Mind blowing!
We want to share your Hill St Honey Walnut Banana Loaf recipe with our readers, what did you do?
I used the Banana Bread mix and followed the instructions on the back but only used two bananas in the mixture. Once I poured the mix into the loaf tin, I placed the third sliced banana on top then added a cup of chopped walnuts and a big drizzle of our Bethells Valley Rescue Honey. Hot tip is to keep your honey in a warm place, I keep mine on top of the coffee machine to keep it warm and gooey! Once I took the loaf out I added more honey before serving. A dollop of coconut yoghurt would make it even better!
You can see the full recipe for Jessie's Honey Walnut Banana Bread here.
Photography: Seb Charles Productions