Autumn agri-tour an educational experience for 12 WA chefs
The Southern Forests Food Council, getFresh Merchants and Buy West Eat Best have collaborated to bring a contingent of 12 Western Australian chefs to the Southern Forests region to personally connect with growers and the land of this abundant region.
The Genuinely Extraordinary Southern Forests Food and Farm Chef Tour was organised by Southern Forests Food Council’s Agri-tourism Coordinator Sophie Zalokar, with a view to showcase the diversity of the region’s local produce and foster a stronger relationship with the region’s growers.
Tour timing also leads into the State Government’s Buy West Eat Best Plating Up WA campaign, running statewide throughout June. Plating Up WA champions the diverse and plentiful produce we are blessed with and is a call to action in wider support of WA Day celebrations: for consumers to dine out and about throughout WA to drive patronage across the state’s hospitality providers – from fine dining, pubs and casual cafes, to wineries, burger bars and fish n’ chips.
“Chefs are produce ambassadors who play an important creative role in introducing diners to new flavours that eventually have a trickle down effect on the purchasing trends of home cooks. This customised food and farm tour allowed chefs and producers to meet in the fields and orchards to taste and talk about their challenges and ways they can work together. Collaborating with Buy West Eat Best and getFresh Merchants who equally understand how important these field-to-fork relationships are has multiple benefits for everyone and just makes sense on so many levels.” said Sophie.
The tour commenced at Southern Roasting Co., where the ethos is all about “sourcing good coffee beans from good farmers” and roasting them to enhance flavours specific to their region.
getFresh Merchants supply food service across WA with the best of regional produce. Operations Manager Michael Curedale said that the tour has been a great opportunity to learn about lesser known products for chefs to use on their menu and grow the paddock to plate message.
“This is the first time we have undertaken this type of initiative. Our thought was - “let’s just do it!” The response from chefs so far has made it completely worthwhile,” said Michael.
Next on the schedule was hybrid farmers (the name for environmentally friendly farmers who are not organic), the Three Ryans, who are leading the way in WA with their use of broccoli and cauliflower to create pre-packed, ready to cook products. They are also reusing their waste by feeding it to chickens on the property and then also selling the top quality eggs. Special megaton cabbage varieties are also set to inspire chefs with their peppery flavour and bulk size.
Newton Orchards of Manjimup’s Nicole Giblett highlighted the importance of the new Bravo™ apple variety in redirecting royalties back into the local industry for further research and development. Nicole also talked about the opportunity they are pursuing to turn waste product into a new cider product.
“It’s all about reducing our overall cost of production, while creating a delicious, local product for a growing cider market,” said Nicole.
Karri Country Gourmet Potatoes showcased some of their special varieties such as Crimson Pearl and Midnight Pearl and highlighted the issues with consistency of size, which is always a challenge in the market.
The last stop was at Warren Grange Horticulture where the chefs enjoyed the amazing range of heirloom produce available, including 24 varieties of tomatoes, 35 varieties of squash and many eggplants as well. Rick Scoones’ approach to staying in business is to keep picking costs low to make it worthwhile to grow such specialised lines for food service and farmers markets.
Stephen Watson, Executive Chef of top Perth catering company Heyder and Shears, was particularly inspired by his time on the tour.
“As chefs, you do get stuck in a rut and become mechanical and forget what happens outside of just ordering on the phone or emailing suppliers. One of the moments that stood out for me was, every single producer we met is very passionate. It feels good to know that the people supplying us as chefs love what they do as much as we do,” said Stephen.
Buy West Eat Best Program Manager with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Melissa Worthington commented, “The tour collaboration provides strengthened relationships between farmer and chef, which opens dialogue with diners as venues detail where their ingredients have been sourced from within their menus.
Chefs have the ideal platform to educate consumers of the importance of buying and supporting local across the supply chain, with the bonus of showcasing the uniqueness and diversity of the Southern Forests region through food, conversation and the Buy West Eat Best program.”