Toasting Tassie’s culinary heroes
PROMPTED by recent articles in the Mercury on our very deserving community heroes, I got to thinking of who might make the roll call of Tasmania’s culinary heroes, the gamechangers, those who, in my experience, have paved the way and made an invaluable contribution to where we are today.
Some are still doing their bit, others have long passed on, some I’ve probably forgotten and many readers could no doubt compile a different list.
But, from where we were to where we are is a great story and these are the people I believe warrant recognition as having helped write the early, seminal chapters.
Claudio Alcorso, Graham Wiltshire and Andrew Pirie our wine industry pioneers.
George Park and Bill Casimaty in the Coal River Valley, John Austwick and Geoff Bull on the East Coast and Steve Ferencz and Eric Phillips down the Huon – all of them regional wine industry pioneers.
Fred Peacock and Andrew Hood, whose viticultural and winemaking talents, respectively, played such vital roles in elevating the quality of our vineyards and wines.
David Johnstone, who was the first wholesaler and retailer to specialise in Tasmanian wines and make them more widely available on restaurant lists.
Mike White, long- time wine merchant who saw and lived the good, the bad and the naughty of Hobart’s restaurant story.
Bertie Tucceri and Romeo Cattaruzza, both supreme restaurateurs, pizza and North Hobart pioneer Marti Zucco and the Luciano, Corredetti and Ghandinni families along with Sergio Simonetto, who primed our taste buds for the dolce vita flavours we enjoy today.
Eric Hayes, who brought in Tasmania’s first cappuccino machine.
The Farrells of Wrest Point for training staff who, like David Seapin and Gary Dorrington, went on to open some of our better cafes, nightclubs and eateries at a time when Hobart was something of a backwater.
Cathy and Wayne Richards at The Deli, Juan and Rosemary Nin at The Bay Hamper and Mike Jones who opened the Wursthaus, each in turn redefining for the public what it meant to be a top- notch delicatessen.
John Bignell, a farm diversification pioneer with his venison, goat and sheep cheeses and milled grains helping drive Tasmania’s gourmet food “revolution” in the ’ 80s and ’ 90s.
John Healy, Frank Marchand and Ueli Berger whose Pyengana, Heidi and King Island cheeses respectively helped put Tasmania on the culinary map through the ’ 80s, paving the way for artisan cheesemakers to follow.
George Mure, who introduced and popularised blue eye cod to the Tasmanian market.
Petuna, Tassal and Huon Aquaculture, which added Atlantic salmon and ocean trout to our menus and dinner tables.
Similarly Terry and Nicky Noonan, Michael Brown, Attilio Minucci, Duncan Garvey and Peter Cooper and other growers of totally new specialty food products – forerunners of the fabulous variety we now enjoy.
Mary Walker, whose exceptional Hill Farm Herbs tracklements encapsulated Tasmania’s small- farm, home- cooked culinary history while at the same time, in quality, packaging and marketing, pointed
the way to the future for the many small producers who followed.
Frank DeMarte, more on Frank in a fortnight, Bill and Lynn Lark, whose taste for whisky founded an industry.
Karen Pridham, who introduced Hobart to specialty breads, baked in the back kitchen at the Wursthaus, and Jackman & McRoss which then took good bread to a wider, more popular level.
Geoff Copping, whose restaurant, Dear Friends, lifted Tasmanian dining to new and unsurpassed levels of elegance and professionalism.
David and Cheryl Quon’s Sakura, Vanidols and Orizuru, which showed us there was a lot more to Asian food than chop suey and sweet ’ n’ sour pork.
Scott Minervini, who brought the Australian Symposium of Gastronomy and the Slow Food movement to Tasmania and whose restaurant has maintained the highest fi ne- dining standards for more than two decades.
Robyn Black and Katherine Wakefield who, at Lickerish, were among the first to radically detour from the then culinary mainstream, in the process awakening our palates to the exciting range of restaurant food styles we enjoy today.
Judith Sweet, Wendy Prendergast and Lucas Schumi with their early cooking classes and TV programs; Jim Burns, who legitimised serious restaurant reviewing under the name of Dave Macquarie; Liz Chessor, food stylist and product consultant who trialled the South’s fi rst farmers’ market; and Sue Dyson and Roger McShane, who upped the ante in restaurant and broader food quality through their Food Lovers’ Guide to Tasmania, radio broadcasts and
Gourmet Traveller articles. Then, of course, there are the many innovative farmers, fi shermen, producers and suppliers who helped make the achievements of the above players possible.