So much food, so little time – life can be truly cruel. Ten days, eighty events and more than 50 internationally acclaimed food aficionados, this years Tasting Australia festival has unfortunately been a feast for the eyes only for this particular cameraman. Although, in line with the motto for the festival, ‘Eat, Drink, Think, Participate’, there’s been plenty of food for thought.
Filming for SA Tourism and KoCo Media, it’s been a hectic but interesting ten days. The bi-annual festival was started in 1997, but this is the first year that it’s been locally run and the program devised by co-directors Paul Henry and Simon Bryant. With an ‘Origins’ theme – recognising the importance of place, both for chefs and for produce – the culinary event celebrates the idea of focusing on the real food heroes. In today’s fast food culture it feels like a ‘welcome call’ back to the wild. I think the idea of elevating and celebrating the producers (butchers, bakers, cheese makers, fishermen, and farmers), over and above the chefs themselves is a great way to remind us eaters and drinkers to pause and appreciate the work and dedication of people who value and champion the slow food culture.
The northern side of Victoria Square, christened Town Square for the duration of the festival, was transformed into a hub showcasing each of South Australia’s unique food and wine regions in one location. With a distinct farmyard feel many different events were carried out here – from ‘Fork on the road’, a street food party with dozens of food trucks in one spot, to ‘The Producer’s Picnic’, where local market stalls sprawled out across the square, turning it into a city sized picnic area. Particularly popular were a number of on-stage masterclass presentations from well known celebrity chefs.
We managed to escape the city and get out to some of the events in the heart of the food and wine regions of South Australia, the Barossa and McLaren Vale. One of the most interesting was ‘A Trio of Consuming Attitudes’, a dinner event featuring fresh food and artisan wine from chefs Matt Wilkinson, of Pope Joan in Melbourne, and the Barossa’s ‘Food Luddite’ Mark McNamara. Guests were treated to inspirational calls to action on sustainable farming from Joel Salatin who, according to TIME magazine, is the ‘The World’s Best Farmer’.
We caught up with Joel the following day for an interview (on the first truly cold and rainy day of Autumn). He’s an impassioned and credible authority on the dangers of industrialised food production and warmly conveys his arguments for a movement towards sustainable farm practices and management. If anyone needed convincing of the benefits of moving towards more holistic agriculture, Joel would be the person to convince them.
Towards the end of the festival we were back into town for one of the most anticipated events on the schedule, the ‘Nose to Kale’ dinner, hosted by Fergus Henderson, Ian Curley, and Andrew Davies at Press* Food & Wine. The name Fergus Henderson is instantly recognised in the culinary world; his ‘nose to tail’ approach has become an intrinsic part of contemporary gastronomy, not only in UK but around the world.
On the last night of the festival, Tasting Australia went out with a bang by holding one of the most impressive pop-up dinner events – the Original Dinner. 30 chefs in a secret location prepared to whet appetites with amazing food, taking the meaning of secret dinner to a whole new level, or as they put it – the nightclub for foodies.
I’m seriously hoping that next time Tasting Australia rolls around we can do a little less filming and a lot more devouring. If you’re at all a lover of the gastronomic then I’d be penciling it into your calendar for 2016 now. Here’s one of the clips produced while we were still in the Barossa; Tasting Australia patron Maggie Beer’s ‘Long Lunch’