Great tastes grow in the sunshine
It’s one of the world’s most popular food festivals, where renowned chefs from across the globe mingle with food-lovers in a celebration of flavours, writes Jana Frawley
LAST year, on my first night in Noosa for the Food and Wine Festival, I made a dinner booking at Berardo’s on the Beach, thinking a quiet evening ahead of the weekend-long degustation was in order.
At the table next to me, chatting like a couple of besties on a girls’ night out, were Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer.
If these names mean nothing to you, then the Sunshine Coast from May 16 to 20 may not be your cup of single origin double macchiato.
But if, like me, and the food lovers around us that fine autumn evening, you are familiar with two of our country’s greatest cooks and food heroines, you’ll understand that it was like opening the oven to find your souffle has not only risen but had done so to a spectacularly dramatic height.
But the culinary superstar bingo didn’t stop then.
The rest of the weekend, like the many years I’ve attended the festival, was one long game of spot-the-chef.
The laid-back intimacy of the Food and Wine Festival’s location means where you walk and eat and drink, so too do the household-name chefs and other master cooks with curiously named dishes like Flight of the Bees and inventive attitudes which suddenly see us raving about ezekiel crumbs.
Most of the action is centred around Hastings St, which is also where the beach, shops and restaurants, and much of the accommodation is located, so while you may have booked a place at the Indian and Japanese lunch with Ragini Dey, a dinner at Gaston with Jonathan Barthelmess, or the English Riverside Picnic with Ian Curley, you’re just as likely to have a casual encounter with Peter Doyle on his way for a surf.
Though you’ve secured a spot on the Spice Tour with Martin Boetz and Christine Manfield, or set aside a few hours to watch Martin Benn, Javier Codina, Alla Wolf-Tasker or Adriano Zumbo in one of the celebrity cooking demonstrations in the festival ‘‘ village’’, there’s every chance you’ll be trailing Giovanni Pilu going for an early morning run before he puts on his whites and you don your winetasting lanyard.
This year, it is gourmet rock stars aplenty as the event’s founder and director, Jim Berardo, has lured some of the world’s best chefs to take over the kitchens of Queensland.
‘‘ As it’s the festival’s 10th year, we tried to find as many opportunities as we could around the number 10, so we’ve got 10 chefs from the San Pellegrino’s Best Restaurant lists,’’ said Berardo, naming international restaurant stars David Kinch from Manresa in the US, Yoshihiro Narisawa from Tokyo’s Les Creations de Narisawa, and Carlo Cracco from Italy’s Ristorante Cracco, as well as our own Peter Gilmore of Quay, Tetsuya Wakuda of Tetsuya’s, Mark Best of Marque, Ben Shewy of Attica, and David Thompson of Bangkok’s Nahm.
Berardo says that while he does some of the wooing of these formidable food forces, it’s the chefs who’ve been to the festival in years past who are the best ambassadors.
‘‘ There is great camaraderie between all these chefs, they are friends, and they sell it for me,’’ he says, adding that unlike other festivals the chefs are made to work and demonstrate their talent for the audience. ‘‘ We bring the chefs to the people, the people to the chefs.’’
In keeping with Berardo’s philosophy to keep the festival fresh as a forager’s larder, this year’s line-up includes some new events.
Edible Music is the opening-night concert in which stave meets stove. The San Pellegrino chefs and an orchestra will meet in a symphony of cooking and music, while the audience sups on a canape box inspired by what’s happening on stage.
‘‘ We want everyone to taste and feel the music as well as hear it,’’ Berardo says.
The festival will also be making more use of the natural beauty of the local area by moving events beyond the restaurants and central event location.
A selection of the official program dinners will begin with a sunset concert