Acclaim for Flinders food fest
Enormous crayfish plucked from Bass Strait and smoked over an open fire were the star attraction at a new food festival on Flinders Island which is generating widespread interest.
This all took place as Tasmania prepared to showcase its premium produce at one of the world’s biggest trade shows.
The inaugural Flinders Island Food and Crayfish Festival, held over an April weekend, has been exciting foodies across the country, especially the long-table lunch of local produce created by five of Australia’s top chefs.
Perhaps most impressively, the chefs all descended on this beautifully rugged island five days before the event so they could spend time foraging for ingredients.
Star chef David Moyle, who started Hobart’s award-winning Franklin restaurant and is now at Longsong in Melbourne, led the pack.
“It is such a great treat as a chef to be able to cook dishes directly from the location and connected to the land you are standing on.
“It just tastes so right.”
Jo Youl, one of the festival organisers who has lived on Flinders for the past seven years, agrees.
She told us the festival is all about promoting the island’s wonderful produce: salt-grass lamb, abalone, wallaby, wasabi, fruit and vegetables, and most importantly – Flinders' famous crayfish.
As we chatted over the phone her husband Tom returned from a dive with freshly-caught abalone and crayfish for that night’s dinner.
“Flinders Island is famous for its really large crayfish – southern rock lobster – which can grow up to four or five kilos,” she explained as Tom headed for the kitchen.
“You won’t taste better crayfish anywhere.
“There used to be about eight commercial cray fishermen on the island, now there is only one; so, this festival is about re-booting the local crayfish industry as well.”
But the festival is also about connecting with nature, and in that spirit all the food for the long-table lunch was cooked by the star chefs over large outdoor fires.
“The crayfish eaten at the lunch was blanched, then smoked over an open fire, and served up in its shell,” Ms Youl added.
Other dishes included lamb cooked over a bed of kelp and hay and steamed abalone sautéed with coastal herbs and wallaby tail sauce.
Not surprisingly, the long-table lunch – which was held in a shearing shed – was a sell-out success attracting “people from everywhere” according to Ms Youl.
“Out of the 165 guests, 110 were ‘off-islanders’ who came from Melbourne, Sydney, the Gold Coast and mainland Tasmania and had all flown in especially for the lunch.
“We were blown away by the response and are already excited about next year.”
Meantime, as Flinders Island was basking in the ‘foodie spotlight’, a delegation of the state’s top niche producers was preparing to sell Tasmania to the world.
Those flying the flag included producers of honey, sea salt, cheese, mussels, salmon, preserves, truffles, apples, gourmet potatoes and juices.
All showcased their premium offerings at the Food and Hotel Asia trade show in Singapore which attracted 80,000 delegates from more than 70 countries.
It was the first time in six years that Tasmania had been part of Asia’s biggest food trade event, and much has happened in those intervening years.
“Across Asia we already sell some $127 million worth of Tasmanian food and beverages a year, up 41 per cent since the last time we attended Food and Hotel Asia in 2012,” Primary Industries Minister Sarah Courtney said.
“As Tasmania’s reputation for clean high-quality produce grows around the world we have to make sure we continue to take our offerings to where major buyers go to make their decisions, which in turn boosts our economy and creates job, many in regional Tasmania.”
Acclaimed Michelin Star chef and Brand Tasmania ambassador, Tetsuya Wakada, was also on site in Singapore proudly promoting the premium produce of his ‘adopted home’.
Photo Courtesy of Adam Gibson Photographer
8 May 2018, Edition 194