Yesterday was my first foray into the world of celebrity foodies. I was kindly invited to come and watch the Brisbane Good Food and Wine Show pop-up celebrity breakfast restaurant. The restaurant was set up in The Green Space within the Redeveloped Boardwalk Area at Southbank. The restaurant opened for an exclusive group of guests including, competition winners, QLD show exhibitors, Anna Bligh, and celebrity chefs. (George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan, Matt Moran, Alastair McLeod,Toby Puttock and Manu Feildel.)
I thought I would be envious of the seated patrons that enjoyed the three plate menu. It turned out that being back stage behind the scenes was not only interesting and fun, it gave me an insight into high end hospitality.
The menu was designed by George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan, Matt Moran and Alastair McLeod. It was prepared by a group of talented chefs, Andrew Ballard, Jayson Smith and Rebecca Woodcock.
The menu featured only Queensland produce, much of it from businesses seriously affected by the January floods and cyclone.
Alastair McLeod had a bit to say about using local produce. He made a comment that the average trolley of groceries from the supermarket has clocked up more miles than Jessica Watson. In his view this was offensive when we have so much great produce on offer in Queensland. He talked about knowing his suppliers favourite colour, and the name of their children. He believes you can taste the fervor and zeal of their labour in every bite.
Matt Moran was asked about his experience with the Brisbane floods and his riverside restaurant. He was out of the country at the time when he received a phone call advising that ARIA would be 1.5m underwater by the end of the day. ARIA had a lucky escape as the water stopped 23cm below entry point. The flow on effect of the flood was not just the downtime of trade and produce. Even produce sourced from NSW had issues getting through due to the shortage of delivery trucks and closure of the Rocklea markets.
Toby Puttock then dropped a few hints as to what I can expect at his celebrity theatre event at the show. He will share ideas that are easy to replicate at home. He has been doing a lot of work with mangoes, free range chicken cooked in milk, lemon and sage and is a bit mad for quinoa.
A number of exhibitors were present in the restaurant, including the Kingaroy Peanut Van, Tomarata Orchard, Barambah Organics and Broken Nose Vanilla. Rob Patch from the Peanut Van shared with us the affect the floods had on his business. While Kingaroy was still up and running, it was not able to get the usual tourist trade, so customers just dried up. To survive financially they had to start a new market circuit for a while. Rob raved about his peanuts. Apparently peanuts grow on sunlight and Queensland offers the best conditions for the little nut.
All of the food was prepared off site in an approved commercial kitchen and was brought to the pop-up restaurant to be plated up.
I had an informative chat to the director of Bellissimo Coffee, Mark Bignell. Most of the coffee they roast is international green beans. They do try to have some Australian beans available. The blend that day was called Emporio. It won the top award at the 2010 Sydney Royal Fine Food Show. It is a blend of Latin America beans and has a sweet chocolate nut taste. It was interesting talking about the differences in beans from various countries. Mark put it nicely when he said the art of roasting is being able to find a way to optimise the character of the bean, and bring out the flavours unique to that beans origin.
The Bellissimo roasterie/cafe/retail store is located at 30 Wandoo Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. I have added them to my list of places to visit soon.
I thoroughly enjoyed mingling with the celebrity chef action. It was interesting seeing this event from a back stage perspective. What a nice start to the Brisbane Good Food and Wine show. I am proud that our own Queensland produce got such a centre stage. It is good when the message of reducing food miles by choosing local options is broadcast by people of influence.
Thank you very much Sarah and Dean for thinking of me. I am very appreciative I got this experience and opportunity.
I am off to visit the Good Food and Wine show this afternoon. It is open today and Sunday. You can find more details on their website.