As a chef, there’s nothing extra soulful than seeing precisely the place your food is produced.
Food is about journey, the place the panoply of flavours can inform a narrative of the place you’re in the world.
I lately had the delight of embarking on a street journey like no different. Queensland’s Bundaberg area is flourishing with a few of the freshest and most numerous produce Australia has to supply, so the place higher to comply with a tasty food trail?
In these elements, the paddock-to-plate philosophy is critically ripe. The farmers and restaurant house owners are really making the most of their very own yard.
Prawns off the early-morning trawlers are served recent to locals and vacationers, and restaurant house owners hand-pick their very own delicate zucchini flowers from nearby farms so as to add to their lunchtime menu. To say it’s a wee bit particular can be an understatement.
I’ve all the time been a robust advocate for sourcing produce regionally. In Bundaberg, they’re dwelling the true essence of paddock-to-plate, and on this foodie trail, I skilled first-hand why this area known as the food bowl of the state.
We begin our food trail at a family-owned seafood market and restaurant, Grunske’s by the River, the place house owners Beryl and Paul Grunske take us behind the scenes to expertise the best seafood in city.
I’m salivating as buckets of recent prawns are peeled by two ladies, who look like competing as to who can peel the quickest — the endless prawn-off! I’m riveted to see large mud crabs plated up on vibrant platters and coral trout, caught that morning, filleted for the day’s commerce.
Paul, an avid fisherman, takes us right down to their jetty on the Burnett River the place the seafood comes off their trawler and goes straight into the kitchen.
“It is the real deal, ocean to plate!” Paul says.
For me, it’s the direct connection to pure food sources and the immediacy of the course of that’s so spectacular.
He explains how their good local weather, and accessing the reef and river, ensures bountiful recent fish, crabs and prawns in this area.
After a variety of a few of the most succulent-tasting seafood, we hit the street and make for Water Street Kitchen, owned by Alex and Jen Cameron.
These two younger weapons have reworked an previous Queenslander cottage into a trendy, cosy hub for scrumptious native food and culinary conversations. Alex, who’s the chef, tells me he has simply sourced recent produce from one in every of the nearby farms — it’s already made its method onto that day’s menu.
He had been choosing zucchini flowers with scissors proper earlier than my arrival and I’m fairly flattered as he arms one over and says with a chuckle: “Will you accept this zucchini flower?” I really feel like one among the fortunate guys from The Bachelorette.
In the kitchen, vibrant fruit and greens adorn the chef’s desk; figs, candy potato, cherry tomatoes and avocados, all picked from nearby farms. For me, it’s like being a child in a sweet store.
“Everything here is just minutes away,” says Alex, humbly.
“Not many (individuals) know the place their produce comes from. In Bundaberg, we will decide it in the morning and serve it that day.
“It means you’re actually pleased with what you’re placing on the desk, figuring out the love that has gone into it on the floor.”
With the elements Alex has in entrance of me, together with the prawns I’d sampled earlier, I’m inventing all types of recipes in my head utilizing the tender figs — a fruit that’s virtually biblical in nature — sitting proper on the stability of candy and savoury.
Alex makes a dessert and ice-cream at Water Street Kitchen utilizing the delicate figs from native farm, Redridge. I make a remark to place that on tomorrow’s itinerary, and you need to too.
The solar is barely peeking by way of the timber as I drive alongside Goodwood Rd the subsequent morning. I see indicators for recent watermelon, avocados “5 for $6”, and rows of macadamia timber.
Won’t discover the humble avo for that worth in your grocery store.
Not solely is produce in abundance right here, however the selection is in contrast to some other.
Pulling into Macadamias Australia, I’m greeted by firm director, Janelle Gerry; the farm has been in her household since the ‘80s.
Janelle shares how they’ve been tapping into the Chinese market with a product referred to as the Happy Nut, the place a key’s used to crack open the mildly vanilla-flavoured macadamia. Easy entry nuts — why wouldn’t you be glad about that?
As we stroll by way of the orchards, Janelle explains how the macadamias fall off the timber when prepared, the place the harvesters hand-pick them. We’re barely six ft down the row and I’m already picturing crushing a few of these nuts, roasting them and sprinkling them on a salmon fillet. Chefs, huh. Always interested by our bellies.
There are too many puns to be made at a nut farm and let’s be trustworthy, I’ve rattled off at the very least a dozen up to now. I can inform Janelle is politely laughing as I’m positive she has heard many nutty jokes earlier than.
Three minutes up the street is Redridge, the solely place in Australia the place farmers have labored out tips on how to produce figs all yr spherical.
I’d already sampled the produce at Water Street Kitchen, however being right here in the pink filth is one thing else.
Ash Emerick takes us the place no digital camera has been earlier than — their greenhouse, or shall I say, hothouse. It is actually fascinating. While we will’t reveal precisely how they’re managing to supply the candy, mushy fruit 12 months of the yr, Ash lets us in on slightly secret.
“We create an environment that is like a typical Bundaberg summer’s day,” he says. In different phrases, good.
Trimmed neatly and in tightly managed circumstances, the figs are picked each day to make sure they’re completely ripe, prepared for market. Demand is excessive for this delicate and historic fruit, and never simply by my tastebuds.
There is nothing extra satisfying than seeing the place the produce you eat is grown and figuring out how a lot effort is put into delivering scrumptious fruit. Our foodie trail continues as we head to Alloway Farm Market, additionally owned by the Emericks.
It’s a shopfront for native produce, the place you’ll be able to have smashed native avo for $eight (cue the Millennials!), plus do-it-yourself almond cake and coffee.
On this food exploration, I realised that Bundaberg farmers and restaurateurs are breaking the obstacles by permitting us to stroll in awe of the orchards, or see fish coming instantly from an on-site jetty, giving us a higher connection to the land and the sea, and appreciation for the food served up on our plates.
This is only a style of Bundaberg’s food bowl and I plan to return again in July for the Taste Bundaberg Festival (July 5-7) to proceed exploring the area’s numerous flavours and exceptionally recent produce.
If you’re a foodie, it is best to, too.