The Noosa Food & Wine Festival
BY EDWINA STORIE
The Noosa Food & Wine Festival will this year celebrate 10 years of showcasing the very best of the region and the world.
Just a few short years ago food didn’t have the cultural weight in Australia that it does now. But in the last few years its cultural relevance has exploded. Its importance to events, lifestyle and identity has become invaluable thanks to accessibility, diversity and media.
What’s more, the impact of this enthusiasm for modern fare along with a growing appreciation of where our food comes from is important to the agricultural and hospitality industries. This is in no small part thanks to culinary festivals such as the Noosa Food & Wine Festival which have not only assisted in diversifying Australia’s palate, but encouraged the awareness of the food we eat and the locations it comes from.
From simple beginnings The Noosa Food & Wine Festival of today is a culinary event that has attracted world-wide attention and world famous chefs. Since its first event in 2003, the event has not only raised awareness of food-related issues and created an understanding for the work of farmers and providores, but has brought business into the region and attracted visitors outside the Sunshine Coast’s main hotspots.
From May 16 until May 19 this year, the festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The event that has evolved with Australian tastes – and also had its hand in influencing them – has its most extensive program ever in 2013.
Festival co-creator and restaurateur, Jim Berardo, told micenet AUSTRALIA that today’s Noosa International Food & Wine Festival evolved from the event The Celebration of Australian Food & Wine Noosa Style.
“It came about as a way of initially saying thank you to local growers and producers, and the world-class local chefs who made Noosa their home,” Mr Berardo said.
Last year’s event attracted 26,000 people to the region pumping more than $10 million into the community, and the expectation is that the 10th birthday will outdo those numbers. Despite its huge capacity, and international status, it retains a local feel thanks to the 130 volunteers, 20 restaurants, 40 producers and 200 staff all from the region who get involved.
Senior editor of Best Restaurants of Australia, Anna Lisle, told micenet AUSTRALIA The Noosa Food & Wine Festival is one of Australia’s most exciting events on the foodie calendar.
“The international chefs the event has attracted over the last 10 years along with the promotion of local winemakers, farmers and providores have all had a hand in diversifying Australian palates.”
Yet the festival has not only changed culinary preferences, but boosted the awareness of Noosa and its surrounding regions as a destination in itself for both business and leisure. This is thanks to the program of food trails and produce-driven activities that tour attendees through the different pockets.
“The Sunshine Coast has world-class food, and the Noosa Food & Wine Festival has helped put it on the map of both food enthusiasts and travellers alike,” Ms Lisle said.
“While Sydney is known for its international restaurants, and Melbourne for its cafés and bars, Noosa has gained a reputation for creating incredible dishes with hyper-local produce.”
Mr Berardo said that during the Food Trails, guests and chefs are taken to the source of the produce, whether that be the winery or fishing boat or farm.
“[This] can’t be done in a capital city,” he said.
Noosa has always had a food-driven history. In the late 1990s local chefs were cooking with locally grown yet exotic spices such as galangal, turmeric, hydroponic herbs, bamboo shoots, WaWa Asian mixed greens from the hinterland, and combining these with seafood from the nearby rivers and ocean.
A sophisticated welcome barbecue on Noosa’s Main Beach punctuated the first Celebration of Australian Food & Wine Noosa Style event in 2003, and for the first time, the tables were turned as food critics were the ones put to the test when they cooked for the chefs and audiences. Debates and seminars discussed Australian agriculture, formal degustation dinners were based around local wine, and a tour to the hinterland’s Coolabine Farmstead Goats Cheese Farm practiced paddock-to-plate before it was a buzz term.
This was before the explosion of MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules. But as these shows made their own contribution to Australia’s food revolution, the Noosa Food & Wine Festival continued to grow with it, becoming a forerunner in picking food trends and supporting up-and-coming chefs. It went on to evolve and was in 2011 proclaimed “Australia’s supreme gourmet event,” by News Ltd’s Elizabeth Meryment.
The Qantas Best Dinner in the World – an elaborate seven-course degustation matched with premium Australian and old world wines – was described by Trudi Jenkins, editor-in-chief of delicious. as the best dinner she’d ever attended.
Mr Berardo says the secret to its longevity is its constant growth and innovation.
“The success of the event comes from a constantly evolving program that each year is influenced by current food trends, environmental news and lifestyle issues. About 35 to 40 per cent of the program changes every year to keep it fresh,”
“However our core values of bringing the chefs to the people will never change. The festival’s point of difference is that every chef who comes, cooks [for the attendees] and is accessible for everyone to meet and chat with.”
this year’s event
This year will be highlighted by a number of elaborate and exclusive events that push the boundaries of dining. The gala opening night dinner, The Cook, The Chef, & The Orchestra, is themed ‘edible music’ and will present 10 chefs from the 2012 San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list. In pairs they will create a dish in theatrical synchronisation to the magnificent sounds of the Queensland Virtuosi Orchestra in front of the audience.
Events such as the delicious. Produce Awards Degustation will champion local businesses as each course features hero ingredients from the winners and finalists of the competition. Celebrity chefs will perform cooking demonstrations on specific regions or ingredients, such as Collin Fassnidge on offal and Peter Doyle on chocolate, while seminars will explore food-related issues such as stimulating professionalism in the hospitality industry. The program’s variety takes into account industry experts and amateur foodies to ensure inclusion of all attendees.
Its aim is to bring producers to the forefront of consumers’ minds through creative activities that introduce guests directly to farmers while also experiencing the wonders of the region from a local’s perspective. This year’s food trails wander up the Noosa River to sample the local spanner crabs, explore the hinterland to meet winemakers, and dine on abundant seafood at Noosa Main Beach.
New activities that feature this year continue to extend the festival’s reach to include more producers and businesses.
“[We’re] very excited about the expansion of the program to include beachside dining and sunset concerts overlooking Noosa River,” Mr Berardo said.
“It takes a year and a half to plan each of the events. Plans are already underway for 2014 as we speak.”
Ms Lisle of Best Restaurants of Australia says anyone who gets the opportunity to attend the festival will be inspired by the beautiful wine, food and produce.
“They will share their tips and memories with others for weeks if not months to come. This is viral marketing at its best working for our hospitality and agricultural industries, and for the incredible Sunshine Coast region.”