It is 6.30am on a chilly morning in July, and a small group of Appetite for Excellence finalists are about to experience firsthand some of the challenges fishers overcome to put the best possible catch on the table.
This group of young culinary elite are fishing with some of the best fishers operating in South Australia’s Coorong fishery, at the mouth of the Murray River.
It is all part of their experience as national finalists in the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence program, designed by its founders Luke Mangan and Lucy Allon to identify, recognise and nurture young talent in the hospitality industry. The annual regional tour also provides an opportunity for leading primary producers to promote sustainable practices and the benefits of applying the best science.
This year, the group of young chefs, waiters and restaurateurs spent six days in SA, travelling from Adelaide, heading out through the Adelaide Hills to the Fleurieu Peninsula, the Coorong and Barossa Valley.
“The goal of the tour is to help educate the next generation of opinion leaders in the food sector,” says FRDC’s communications manager Peter Horvat.
“They interact directly with some of our key producers to better understand the importance of continued research and development in food production across Australia.”
During the tour, the finalists taste, test and discuss a broad range of food with the primary producers who grow, catch and cultivate it. They visit dairy and cattle producers, wine makers and pick the best vegetables with growers.
They also spend time with fishers who have attained the highest levels of sustainability; the Lakes and Coorong Fishery was the first multi-species fishery in the world to achieve Marine Stewardship Council accreditation.
Seafood was the focus of the final two days of the tour, including the early morning start to learn how fisher Glen Hill tends his mullet and Mulloway nets in the Coorong.
The cold temperatures on water did not slow down Glen Hill, who showed great skill and dexterity bringing in the nets by hand. But this did provide the visitors with a good appreciation of how tough the work is.
Returning to shore, the group received a lesson in filleting the catch.
Again the dexterity and skill of the fishers shone, with the chefs taking three times as long to prepare a fish.
But there was a reversal of roles later in the day when the visitors showed their prowess in the kitchen, preparing the catch as part of a meal for more than 60 locals, including fishers and farmers they had met during the tour.
On the final day, the finalists visited Ferguson Australia, based in Adelaide.
The innovative seafood company run by Debra, Andrew and Will Ferguson has developed an innovative range of value-added seafood products, particularly for Southern Rocklobster.
The tour and the Appetite for Excellence awards are supported by the FRDC, Meat and Livestock Australia, Dairy Australia, and Horticulture Australia Limited to help provide a firsthand understanding of Australia’s primary industries.
WINNER: Jacob Davey – sous chef, Marque Restaurant (NSW)
(RUNNER UP) Braden White – head chef, Hatch & Co. (Queensland)
Michael Cole – head chef, Scholars Wine Bar (Victoria)
Francis Fawkner – sous chef, Muse Restaurant (NSW)
Oliver Gould – head chef, Stokehouse (Victoria)
Hajime Horiguchi – head chef, Wasabi Restaurant & Bar (Queensland)
Joshua Niland – head chef, Fish Face (NSW)
WINNER: Sonia Bandera – sommelier, Rockpool Bar and Grill (Victoria)
(RUNNER UP) Hugh Holland – food and beverage attendant, RACV City Club (Victoria)
Danielle Doffay – supervisor, The Point Albert Park (Victoria)
Stephanie Jacob – waiter, Hentley Farm (SA)
Mitchell Jones – restaurant supervisor, BLACK by ezard (NSW)
Breanna Lawler – assistant manager, Flying Fish Restaurant and Bar (NSW)
Mathew McNamara – sommelier, Bistro Dom on Waymouth (SA)
WINNER: James Viles (NSW) – Biota Dining, Bowral
Karl Firla (NSW) – Oscillate Wildly, Newtown
Julia Paussa (Queensland) – Coast Restaurant and Bar, Hervey Bay
Chloe Proud (Tasmania) – Ethos Eat Drink, Hobart
Bianca Welsh (Tasmania) – Stillwater Restaurant, Launceston
FRDC Research Code: 2013-502
Peter Horvat, 02 6285 0414