Truf­fles star as fes­ti­val evolves

Manjimup-Bridgetown Times - - Front Page - Ce­cilia Allen

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

Jeremy Beis­sel

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.

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