Well, we got the table shape completely wrong. It was far from round; being long and skinny instead. But the rest of the glorious November afternoon at Bonnie Brae farm, hosting many of Gippsland’s leading chefs, restaurateurs and growers, was served close to perfection.
With the weather turning it on with dazzling blue skies. The rustling eucalypts overhead providing an equal offering of shade and ambience. Our knowledgeable guests eased themselves into an eclectic selection of vintage chairs, surveyed the gracefully apt centrepiece of natives from Flowers By Rhi, eagerly contemplated their first bite of the incredible charcuterie, antipasto and baking by Tony and Coralie Teresi (as featured in Gippslandia #2), and then introduced themselves and the passion they have for Gippsland’s flourishing food scene.
Bottles of Lightfoot & Sons finest were opened, chilled Sailors Grave and Little Gippsland Brewing Co. beers were cracked and the conversation flowed forthwith. The Baw Baw Food Hub had brought berries to share and The Cape Kitchen had coastal delights to taste. All we had to do was soak in the many frequent insights on where our dining scene can improve, the importance of high-quality, fresh local produce and how a lack of ego can lead to a beneficial food destination for all. Our guests from all corners of Gippsland, and the special guests from Melbourne, treated us to a dialogue we found enlightening, and a robust discussion that we hope they found stimulating and fruitful.
The Cape Kitchen
“Now, for the first time in history more people live in a city than in the country, and often their only connection with nature is through food. So, is there anything else more important than access to high-quality local produce? Depending on the scale of your operation, it may be impossible to source everything you need locally. Therefore, after looking locally and seasonally, it’s all about filtering the decision-making process against your values. Is it ethically raised, harvested. etc.? What are the environmental considerations? It pains me to see ‘chef’s gardens’ that could barely feed a family let alone claim to serve thousands of covers a week - it’s simply misleading.
“The essential Gippsland dining experience is one that creates a lasting impression for the right reasons; a combination of people, place and produce. This could be fish and chips and an amazing sunset, a picnic in our amazing National Parks or simply because someone cared and thanked you for coming!”
— Jodie Vogt, The Cape Kitchen.
Baw Baw Food Hub
“We can’t get enough (of high-quality local produce). One of our main principles is to facilitate a major increase in the diversity and volume of local, ecologically grown food...
"We have a direct relationship. with our producers. We know them all, they deliver to us and we celebrate together with an annual dinner.”
— Lynda Hoare, Baw Baw Food Hub.
“In a town with over 75 cafes and restaurants, it’s an effort to win regular business from a pool of diners who are spoilt for choice and have a loud and consistent voice. We were lucky to win over the producers of the series, ‘Postcards’ (Nine Network). They loved our story and gave us airtime this past May. The amount of promotion in 30 seconds of airplay helped us smash through our winter, off-peak season.
“Stellina prioritises growth from an operational standpoint, by improving the infrastructure and venue and by creating good relationships with other well-regarded restaurateurs. Collectively, the more restaurants who employ tight standards, the higher the region rises — together. It can then become the norm in the region to plate food with excellence, serve people with care and detail, and operate ethically and fairly. This is what visitors will come to Gippsland for.”
— Emma Taylor for Stellina.
“The benefits of opening a ‘destination restaurant’ in Gippsland are that we have fantastic local produce and wines, as well as lots of local attractions. The pitfalls are possibly staff and day trippers from Melbourne that feel that it’s too far to travel...We need to get the word out that Gippsland is Australia's food bowl.”
— Damien Gannon, Tinamba Hotel.
Little Prince & Nielsons Kitchen
“As my wife and I had already established a successful restaurant, Neilsons Kitchen, our motivation behind Little Prince was to bring a different style of dining to Gippsland. We’d noticed Melbourne dining moving to enjoying more dishes on smaller plates, rather than your conventional entree, main and dessert. We love this shared style of eating — hence Little Prince was born. Access to high-quality local produce is essential as you want to present the best of your area to your diners, and be able to support your local producers as much as possible.
“Diners want to come in and see what the region has to offer. They want to see Gippsland produce on the plate - especially those travelling. We have everything on our doorstep, that’s why it’s our responsibility to showcase local produce it to the best of its ability.”
Sailors Grave Brewing
“Food and wine can represent Gippsland through storytelling and not taking our story for granted. We need to talk louder, encourage each other more and be proud of this beautiful, wild and weird place we live.
“We need better assistance for start-ups - every little maker and producer counts to the story of Gippsland. It starts at home with the support of local ventures. From there a coherent and strong brand can be sold to outside of the region.”
— Chris and Gabi Moore, Sailors Grave Brewing.
Prom Country Cheese
“Gippsland is a unique food bowl with a wide variety of soil types. The rich soils, clean climate and beautiful topography are what give our foods their identity. Our relationship with our producers is two-way - many are both customers and suppliers.
“We work closely together to build our own little, local network, sharing solutions and supporting each other for a stronger local food system.”
— Burke and Bronwyn Brandon, Prom Country Cheese.
Ascot Food Store, Ascot Vale
Lynda Hoare & Rob Harrington
Baw Baw Food Hub, Warragul
(Thanks for the berries!)
Hogget Kitchen, Warragul
Little Gippsland Brewing Co., Traralgon
Brett McIngwerson & Ash McCowat
Young Chef Ambassador Australia & Pacific
(formerly of Stellina), Traralgon
Little Prince & Nielsons Kitchen, Traralgon
Raymond Capaldi Consultancy, Melbourne
Shane Coles & Homer Jason King
Tamsin’s Table, Poowong East
The Cape Kitchen, Phillip Island
Damien Gannon & Dan Keck
Tinamba Hotel, Tinamba
UNABLE TO ATTEND
By Jorg, Glengarry North
The Courthouse, Warragul
Floating Dragon, Lakes Entrance
Lightfoot & Sons, East Bairnsdale
The Outpost, Noojee
Peppermint Ridge Farm, Tynong North
Prom Country Cheese, Moyarra
Sailors Grave Brewing, Orbost
The Long Paddock, Lindenow
OUR GRANDEST GIPPSLANDIAN THANKS TO
A huge ‘thank you!’ to all that attended and to those that made the event possible:
Bonnie Brae, Flynn
(Host & Venue)
Petite Visuals, Heyfield
(Photography & Videography)
Tony & Coralie Teresi
(Catering of homemade cured meets & antipasto)
Sailor's Grave Brewing, Orbost
(Locally brewed beer)
Little Gippsland Brewing Co., Traralgon
(Locally brewed beer)
Flowers by Rhi, Traralgon