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Food and beverage stories

Festive fun begins with birthday bash

Edition 201_TasteOfTas

Tasmania is gearing up for a summer of festivities, spear-headed by an iconic event which is ready to celebrate a milestone birthday – with a new look.

The fun kicks off as the first Sydney to Hobart yacht sails into Hobart.

But waterfront festivities switch into overdrive when the doors of nearby Princes Wharf open for the Taste of Tasmania, which this year turns 30.

“It’s huge; it’s such an epic achievement for any festival to get to 30 years of age,” festival Director, Brooke Webb says.

“The Taste of Tasmania is the oldest and biggest food and wine festival, not just in Tasmania, but in Australia.”

The first Taste of Tasmania was held in 1989, and now the seven-day event, which gets underway on December 28, attracts more than 200,000 people.

However, not surprisingly, after three decades it’s time for a little facelift, and that’s where Webb comes in.

The experienced festival operator moved to Hobart from Sydney just over a year ago, with a brief to inject new life into the long-running event.

“As a brand it has been malnourished,” Webb explains.

“A festival is a living, breathing being, and my job is to breathe life back into the Taste of Tasmania; inject some heart and give it a personality again.

“It’s about creating joy, about bringing the magic back.

“And, I feel really great about what we are doing this year, because we are overhauling everything with this festival.”

Webb’s main goal is to make the 2019 event “a real taste of Tasmania” showcasing the amazing artisan produce from the island state.

Towards this aim, 112 festival stallholders have been heavily curated for the upcoming festival. Webb says this was made possible due to a long waiting list of over 200 stallholders.

“This has meant we have really been able to raise the bar this year,” she explains.

“We will have some of the old favourites but being able to diversify, we are introducing new menu offerings.”

Webb is also excited about the Culinary Kitchen program, where chefs, farmers, distillers, and producers present a masterclass to an intimate audience.

Presenters range from well-known figures, such as Nick Haddow from Bruny Island Cheese, to “the little lady from the Huon who makes amazing dumplings in her garden".

Emerging producers are also a big part of this year’s festival, and will be promoted on the lawn at Parliament House

“It’s so exciting to be able to create a platform for our community, and to get to know all these people who are making this state amazing,” Webb says.

“It’s all here, and it’s all proudly Tasmanian.”

One man who has been at the Taste of Tasmania from the very beginning is stallholder, John Caire.

Caire fronted up for the first Taste of Tasmania in 1989 and will be part of it again in a few days, selling his hugely popular tempura mushrooms from the Festival Mushrooms stall.

He has watched with great interest as this “pioneering concept” has grown from humble beginnings and reminisces about the early years when just a handful of stall holders rattled around in the cavernous Princes Wharf shed.

“Back then we were just a collection of opportunistic food vendors, who only filled up about one third of that large building,” Caire recounts.

“It was totally different to what it is today. We weren’t promoting Tasmania, we were just a group of people with food stalls who sold a bit of everything, including hot dogs.

“Our stall, for example, sold mushroom done half a dozen different ways including pasta, risotto and of course tempura, but we also sold burgers and a few other things.”

Three decades on, the Taste of Tasmania is firmly entrenched as a festive season institution.

Now, the once hotchpotch collection of food vendors has been replaced by specialist stall holders offering tastes of premium Tasmanian fare – such as Caire’s famous tempura mushrooms.

Today’s festival is a wonderful representation of Tasmania, and completely different to those early days.

So, on this very special birthday year the Taste of Tasmania is celebrating with a new look, and a new lease of life.

“It is THE Tasmanian great event,” Caire concludes.

The Taste of Tasmania runs from December 28 to January 3, at Hobart’s Princes Wharf, but it’s just the start of the summer fun with Tasmania chock-a-block with festivities:

Image courtesy of Taste of Tasmania

11 December 2018, Edition 201

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