Straight To The Source

Luxe Beat Magazine - - Contents - Epi­cure

Straight to the Source orig­i­nally pub­lished and with per­mis­sion from the­lead­southaus­

It is mid morn­ing on South Aus­tralia’s pris­tine Baird Bay and a group of Aus­tralia’s top chefs is get­ting their fi­nal in­struc­tions be­fore div­ing with a colony Aus­tralian sea li­ons. “You can dive and play with them, but chas­ing them doesn’t work,” says Alan Payne who has been run­ning th­ese tours for 22 years. “The best thing is to let them chase you. Don’t pick up empty shells, don’t stand up and, re­mem­ber, please don’t put your [sic] hand un­der a rock – you might be in for a nasty shock.”

On a nor­mal day th­ese in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als would be sweat­ing over menus, track­ing down ex­otic in­gre­di­ents or fu­ri­ously prep­ping for lunch. In­stead, here they are frol­ick­ing with a colony of play­ful sea li­ons on the re­mote shores of the Eyre Penin­sula – 720 kilo­me­tres north­west of Ade­laide, the cap­i­tal city of South Aus­tralia.

Rather than dodg­ing their mun­dane chores in kitchen th­ese 10 chefs are ac­tu­ally in the mid­dle of an in­ten­sive three-day Straight To The Source tour of the penin­sula which of­fers th­ese (mostly) city-bound food pro­fes­sion­als a chance to see where Aus­tralia’s most de­sir­able pro­duce comes from – and to meet oys­ter farm­ers, abalone divers, wine grow­ers, sheep farm­ers and oth­ers who live and work in this ma­jes­tic

but chal­leng­ing place.

By the time this group reaches Baird Bay they have al­ready toured some oys­ter leases, en­joyed an out­back lunch at Smoky Bay and learned about the in­tri­ca­cies of abalone har­vest­ing. The itin­er­ary also in­cludes a fish fil­let­ing les­son, a taste of lo­cal bush tucker and a Catch & Cook Com­mu­nity Din­ner, where the chefs work to­gether to cre­ate a multi-course din­ner for the peo­ple of Ce­duna – the last town be­fore the ex­panse of the Nullar­bor.

De­spite the packed itin­er­ary, change­able weather and long dis­tances, the vis­it­ing chefs clearly rel­ished their time on the Eyre Penin­sula and were in­spired by the hard work, com­mit­ment and sheer

grit shown by so many lo­cal pro­duc­ers.

“Of course it’s amaz­ing to spend a morn­ing on an oys­ter lease,” says Mary-louise Brandt­man, who owns a large ca­ter­ing firm in Sydney. “I’ve been in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try for 20 years and I never really un­der­stood where oys­ters came from – I’d cer­tainly never han­dled spat [oys­ter lar­vae] be­fore. But the thing I really got from this tour is the pas­sion of the small pro­duc­ers for what they do – they are so com­mit­ted.”

Al­though Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Aus­tralia (RDA), with the sup­port of in­di­vid­ual pro­duc­ers, has been host­ing chefs and other in­dus­try spe­cial­ists on the Eyre Penin­sula for the past decade, the or­ga­ni­za­tion has re­cently teamed up with a num­ber of spe­cial­ist op­er­a­tors, such as Tawnya Bahr, a Sydney chef and food con­sul­tant – and cre­ator of the Straight To The Source model.

Mark All­sopp, food in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer for the Eyre Penin­sula, says th­ese new tours build last­ing re­la­tion­ships be­tween pro­duc­ers and food pro­fes­sion­als and gen­er­ate tan­gi­ble sales re­sults. De­mand for new culi­nary tours is run­ning hot – pre­vi­ous in­vi­tees in­clude cel­e­brated Sydney chefs Pete Evans, Sean Con­nolly and Martin Boetz.

“Last year I hosted four chef’s tours and this year we’ll do 10 tours. I can’t do all of them my­self so it makes sense to align our­selves with peo­ple like Tawnya,” All­sopp says. “I get plenty of pos­i­tive feed­back about the ex­tra busi­ness be­ing done – that’s in ad­di­tion to the direct re­la­tion­ships be­ing forged be­tween pro­duc­ers, chefs and other food pro­fes­sion­als. That’s a pretty good out­come.”

Tours such as Straight To The Source nat­u­rally com­ple­ment the re­gion’s over­all mar­ket­ing strat­egy which promotes the Eyre Penin­sula as “Aus­tralia’s seafood fron­tier” based around Port Lin­coln, Cof­fin Bay, Streaky Bay and Ce­duna. All­sopp sees fu­ture scope in tak­ing such hands-on ex­pe­ri­ences to an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence – and pos­si­bly for a grow­ing le­gion of ded­i­cated home cooks and wannabe celebrity chefs. For her part, Bahr be­lieves that her food tours of­fer clas­sic win-win sce­nario for both par­ties, since chefs and in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als of­ten have lit­tle chance to en­gage with small pro­duc­ers first hand.

“Un­like other vo­ca­tions where pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment is an ex­pec­ta­tion, chefs and front of house staff are ex­pected to teach them­selves. Notic­ing this gap we have tai­lored tours with the pro­fes­sional in mind while still offering a unique ex­pe­ri­ence for the food lov­ing pub­lic,” she says. “Spend­ing time at the source pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to learn what can­not be learnt by read­ing a cook­book or eat­ing at a restau­rant.”

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