TRUFFLES STILL STAR AS FESTIVAL EVOLVES
Truffles star as festival evolves
WHAT started as a conversation between friends, sparked the idea behind one of the region’s biggest events.
Now in its 7th year, the Truffle Kerfuffle draws crowds of more than 4000 people to the heart of Australian truffle country – Manjimup.
Along with the live truffle hunts, master classes and the farmers market, some of Australia’s best-known chefs use truffles and other high-end produce from the region including marron, cherries and wine to create a range of dishes to enjoy.
The iconic Fonty’s Pool offers the perfect backdrop for the weekend-long festival and owners Jeremy and Kelly Beissel have seen how the festival has grown into a highlight of the Australian tourism calendar.
Jeremy and Kelly have been on the truffle committee since its inception and Jeremy has been president for two years.
“There are probably a few different stories on how the festival started, depending on who you talk to,” Jeremy said.
“We were at Al Blakers and he’d just built a new truffle processing shed and I was up there one particular day, along with Gavin Booth, and they were saying how great it would be to have a truffle festival in Manjimup.
“So Al Blakers put some money towards it and Gavin and I organised it.”
Jeremy said it started out as a “little festival” with a small marquee and some farmers markets.
“We had about 1200 people attend the first one, which made us think maybe there is something in it,” he said.
“Over the years we’ve built on it and the festival is popping up in the media all around the world.”
Last year more than 4000 people attended the event coming from as far as Russia, Singapore, China and America.
“It’s not just about truffles but the region’s produce.”
The festival has a commitment to using local produce wherever possible.
More than 70 per cent of the ingredients used at the event are local and 100 per cent of the wine and the cider are from the region.
“The reason it is so successful is because of the Southern Forests food bowl, that’s why it’s here, why have the festival anywhere else?” Kelly said.
Many of the relationships built during the festival have a lasting impact for the region’s farmers and producers.
“When the chefs are down here, a few days before the event prepping, produce is dropped off by the farmers and the chefs love that,” Kelly said.
“It’s real paddock-to-plate stuff and they have the opportunity to talk to the farmers.
“And when they leave here they source the region’s produce for their restaurants.”
As a not-for-profit event, the Truffle Kerfuffle relies on the support of its sponsors, volunteers, businesses, the local community and the truffle industry.
Last year Tourism WA signed a three-year deal to sponsor the event through to 2018.
Jeremy said he would love to see the festival continue well into the future but “it’s not a given.”
“There are challenges, like with any not-for-profit,” he said.
“We have some great volunteers but we could always use more and funding is a real issue.
“We really need the support of local businesses to recognise the
value of the festival and support it and we need to the producers to be involved.”
Jeremy said the festival also relied on support from the locals.
“We need 500-600 local people to attend because that really helps,” he said. Gearing up for this year's festival, which kicks of on June 23, Jeremy and Kelly are busy setting up the venue.
“There is a lot of new stuff this
year... last year was very good but this year is going to be better,” Jeremy said.
Archie’s Hut, one of the most historical landmarks at Fonty’s Pool, is being renovated and will be used as a coffee hut at the festival.
“It’s where Archie Fontanini used to sit and serve cool drinks and take money for the pool in the early days,” Jeremy said.
“It’s a terrific event and something to be proud of.”
Over the years we’ve built on it and the festival is popping up in the media all around the world.
Fonty's Pool owners Jeremy and Kelly Beissel are renovating Archie's Hut to give it a new lease of life ahead of this years Truffle Kerfuffle, which kicks off next month.