Combine food with art a winning recipe

Tobias Merz performs at the Old Witta School Hall. 286894_01

Erle Levey

Food and the arts are two industries that were hit hard during Covid.

Now, a small group of inspired people from the food and performing arts industries have started their way out of this challenging period.

Using products from Gympie and Mary Valley to the Maleny and Glasshouse Mountains, calling on local artists and acclaimed culinary professionals, is a recipe that could be implemented in many rural and regional communities.

The Eat Art project was launched to provide a nourishing experiences program that encompasses local food producers and performing arts professionals.

The selection of the foods that will be used in the menu, the pairing with performing artists and the choice of an intimate environment are the key to the upcoming events.

The inaugural dinner and performing arts event, the Winter Solstice Feast, was held at the Old Witta School Hall on the longest night of the year and proved to be a resounding success.

The high level of coexistence marked this revolutionary look at the way forward for rural and regional communities to celebrate sustainable living.

At the sold-out event, people engaged in lively conversations in an inspiring environment that encompassed the best of the region.

All food was sourced locally following regenerative agriculture processes.

It brought back memories of how food was prepared in farming communities in the past.

The shared plates that passed by the table reflected the long Sunday lunches of family gatherings.

Locally sourced butter and sourdough bread were placed on the tables.

Simple things are done well and honestly we were hooked from the first bite.

Directors Kat Atkinson and Fiona Jopp introduced the evening.

“The concept of Eat Art is a desire to amalgamate our passions: food and art of the highest quality,” they said at the welcome. “A marriage of food and art.

“It is a concept that is not bound by any format or formula and something that we are eager to explore and experience.

“The only constant elements are food, art and sustainability.”

Katrina is an agribusiness entrepreneur who has traveled Australia, South America and Europe discovering her interest and passion for food systems, plants and fungi.

As a producer, she said that the eating element of the concept was about connecting people to the source of their food while bringing them together.

“We have spent too much time apart in the last two years.

“Here is the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy the incredible flavors as well as the many other benefits inherent in small-scale, sustainable and conscious farming.

“It’s bringing people and the community together to shake hands and talk to the person who grew or made what you’re eating.

“It’s also about the chefs, cooks and food artisans who are also inspired by these producers, and who bring it all together so that it also inspires the guests.”

Contemporary dancer Fiona Jopp said the artist’s life over the last two years has been plagued with uncertainty and impossibility.

“We moved online and created and shared work, but I hope that what has happened is that we have fully realized that the experience and magic of a live performance is something that cannot be replicated on a screen.

“We wanted to create an intimate, unique and site-specific event that would bring exceptional art to our region.”

The bread was Wonky Loaf, Kuluin, a traditional sourdough, crispy and healthy.

The butter came from the acclaimed Cedar Street Cheeserie, purposely wrapped in rounded balls to share between two, four, six or eight… for all who needed it. And then come back for more.

The three-course potluck dinner was prepared by distinguished chef Cameron Matthews, and the evening was joined by acclaimed contemporary classical musician Tobias Merz.

The producers featured at this potluck dinner were some of the best in South East Queensland and leaders in quality and sustainable food production.

Falls Farm, Tin Shed Farm, Cedar Street Cheeserie and Mountaintop Mushrooms were just a few of the growers represented.

The crusty bread was put to good use with the entrée, this time to mop up the sauces on the pork rilett from Forage Farm in Kybong, the mushrooms from Mountaintop Mushrooms, and the pickled vegetables from Falls Farm.

The flavor and texture of the pork were attributed to the fact that the animals are constantly moving to fresh pastures.

The mushrooms were quite extraordinary. Fresh, nutritious, and flavorful, which reminded me of our time growing up on a farm and waiting for mushroom season.

Tin Shed Farm chicken was the main course: the chickens were moved to fresh pastures daily, marinated in black garlic teriyaki miso, and served with Falls Farm winter vegetables.

Dessert was Mt Mellum vanilla rice pudding with local banana, honey and macadamia nuts.

For the evening, singer-songwriter Tobias Merz reinvented and rearranged a selection of songs from Schubert’s Winterreise (Winter Journey) based on poems by Wilhelm Müller. These evocative songs follow the story of love and loss of a traveler traveling through the harsh winter landscape.

Being sung on the longest night of the year it was a fitting selection. He evoked the feeling of log fires, clear night skies, and frost on the ground.

Since moving to the Sunshine Coast nearly six years ago, Katrina and her partner Dan Tibbett have studied permaculture and started a gourmet mushroom farm, Mountaintop Mushrooms.

While this project was in development, she worked at Green Harvest Organic Gardening Supplies, learning the importance of the seed industry and its role in our food systems.

Katrina’s own personal exploration of where her food came from led her to visit farms (farmers’ markets) and connect with a wide range of producers.

Other interests include working at Barung Landcare, as a farmhand at Falls Farm, and an active member of Young Farmers Connect.

Fiona has danced extensively in Australia and internationally in many disciplines.

She performed in Disney’s The Lion King for stints in Sydney, Melbourne and Shanghai and spent her years as a company dancer with The Sydney Dance Company.

Cameron Matthews was an early proponent of the Slow Food movement, having met it in the early 2000s during his travels in Italy.

Slow Food’s philosophy is that of clean, fair and sustainable products.

The emphasis is local and seasonal food from regenerative practices that formed the basis of the Eat Art night.

The idea is that the food not only looks good but is good for you, and that was achieved through the selection of the products, the quality, how it was prepared and presented.

In 2009, Cameron became the executive chef of The Long Apron restaurant at Spicers Clovelly Estate Montville.

Teaching at Spicer’s cooking school, other independent schools and events has also been a passion of Cameron’s, allowing her to share the art of cooking and showcase sustainable local produce.

In 2014, he also accepted the position of general manager of the Spicers Clovelly Estate, which allowed him to introduce additional environmentally friendly practices and expand horticultural projects on the grounds.

His individual style and innovation are an integral part of his ever-changing, intriguing and original take on fine dining, which is sometimes fun and quirky, and often with an inspiring, thought-provoking but always skillful story or message; a largely self-taught style offering a menu of seasonal local sustainable produce created from a passion for their craft.

Cameron now brings the Slow Food concept to the menu at Mapleton Tavern, which has been renamed Mapleton Public House to feature fresh food from the Blackall Range and Glasshouse Mountains, hinterland Noosa and Mary Valley.

Tobias is a singer and songwriter. He discovered his love of music in his native New Zealand as a child soprano and in the family jazz band before moving to the Netherlands to study classical singing at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.

His career has seen him perform in some of the world’s best known opera houses in the UK, the Netherlands, France, Greece, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

He has performed with Opera Australia, English National Opera, Opera North (UK), Scottish Opera, Grange Park Opera (UK), Opera Della Luna (UK), Carl Rosa Company (UK), The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival Company, Buxton. , Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra, The Resident Orchestra of The Hague, Sydney Symphony, The Ereprijs Orchestra (NL), Melbourne Philharmonic, Waikato Symphony (NZ), among others.

Fiona and Kat met at the Witta Market, while Fiona worked with Trevor Hart at the Cedar Street Cheeserie and Kat was the manager of the market.

Fiona, Kat and Tobias had a similar dream of hosting an event about bringing people together, sharing good food and enjoying it in the company of world-class artists.

“Tobias and I have performed and worked all over the world and we wanted to share as much as we could with the local community.

“The idea is to do something site-specific… we’ll be looking for interesting architectural buildings to fill our outdoor spaces with exceptional food and performing arts.”

“We really want to inspire people.”

Katrina was very pleased with the way the inaugural dinner went and is looking forward to the seasonal events.

“It was so cozy,” he said, “…the feeling was very intimate, like a living room.

“We are already thinking about something for later in the year.

“One of the main concepts is that we are not bound by anything except quality food, performance art and sustainability.

“The feedback has been fantastic, especially the importance of consumers reconnecting with food.

“It is very important to know where we have to go.

“We need to see what’s in our backyard and reward it fairly.”

That is exactly what Eat Art has done: it made me aware of what is around us and how supporting the local community benefits us all.

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