Wrapping up Tasting Australia 2016

Chefs got intimate with local produce - in fire pits, on fishing wharves and at botanical gardens - while dinner guests were treated to inventive feasts at Tasting Australia in Adelaide from May 1-8.

Event organisers can reflect on this nine-day festival with satisfaction, not only for strong ticket sales across many of its 200 events, but also for reinventing it as a relevant gastronomic forum that has moved far beyond a celebrity chef-fest.

Produce was elevated to star status, especially at regional events where guest chefs cooked beside locals to get the best out of ingredients at their source.

Highlights included Paul West cooking asado lamb at Savannah Farm in Clare, Andrew McConnell's masterclass at Leonards Mill Restaurant in the southern Fleurieu Peninsula, and Robin Wickens of the Royal Mail Hotel with Lachlan Colwill at Hentley Farm Restaurant in the Barossa.

Big ticket functions captured the necessary wow factor, especially a retrospective of revered Adelaide chef Cheong Liew, with eight courses cooked by Liew alumni who now run kitchens around the world, including Luke Brabin from Regal Hotel, Shanghai, and Michael Elfwing from Cape Lodge in Margaret River. It underlined the power of Liew's influence upon another generation.

Pop-up events provided magic moments. Matt Orlando, from Amass in Denmark, and Orana's Jock Zonfrillo laid a carpet of autumn leaves in a marquee to complement their six-course Natural dinner of foraged and seasonal produce. A crowd on the Port Adelaide docks ate fresh-caught fish with bread baked by Americans Jeffrey Hamelman and Josey Baker. A mighty avenue of ancient trees provided a canopy for Anthony Myint and Paul Baker's long table feast at Adelaide Botanic Garden.

The festival's concluding Origins gala - "a nightclub for foodies" as described festival creative director Simon Bryant - had 30 chefs present bite-sized dishes of extravagant comfort foods. Many were sublime, including wagyu tartare on a fried potato cube by Dave Pynt from Singapore.

The transformation of Adelaide's central Victoria Square into a stall-lined Town Square for public eating, drinking, demonstrations and forums was similarly ambitious, but needs modifying to garner more public attention. Organisers get the chance when the now-annual Tasting Australia returns in late April 2017.

tastingaustralia.com.au

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