Since Tourism Australia first launched the Restaurant Australia campaign in 2014, the rest of the world has been paying a lot more attention to our fabulous food offerings. Next year Melbourne will host the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards partly as recognition of our place on the world gastronomic stage.
Tourism Australia’s research in 15 of Australia’s key tourism markets found that ‘ food and wine’ was a key factor in holiday decision-making. Indeed, it was the most important emotive trigger closely followed by world-class beauty. We are ranked second to the French as a culinary destination.
Impassioned foodies now want to get their hands dirty and their gumboots muddy in the hope of learning and tasting from Australia’s farmers. They want to learn new skills and are primed for their next culinary adventure.
Unbridled by hard and fast rules that come from centuries of cooking, our cuisine is innovative and incredibly dependent on the quality of our outstanding produce. Simply put it’s what makes our food shine. Australians already know about Tasmania, Margaret River, Noosa and Melbourne but how many know about the nation’s next culinary hotspot, Bundaberg?
Bundaberg is blessed with a near-perfect climate and rich, volcanic soil. Fringed by the Southern Great Barrier Reef it is Australia’s food bowl producing a staggering 25% of Australia’s food. As guests of Bundaberg North Burnett region for the annual Winterfeast festival, we’ve narrowed down the top must-dos from farm-gates to trawler-fresh seafood, exceptional cafes and markets. Everyone featured here are ardent supporters of the region and it’s diverse crops, meat and seafood.
Anthony and Kate Rehbein’s property is blessed with fertile, red soil and perfectly positioned near local landmark The Hummock – ensuring longer days for growing Australia’s finest ginger. The labour-intensive crop (hand-grown, hand-picked and hand-packed) is grown year-round next to the Rehbein’s other crops – watermelons, potatoes, pumpkins, broccoli and now turmeric.
Anthony (a fourth-generation farmer) reckons you ‘hear a hum around the hummock’ – an indefinable buzz that indicates the commitment of the locals.
The Rehbein’s along with a number of other ardent producers and restaurateurs are part of the determined local push to put Bundy on Australia’s culinary map.
They have also created a range of products including pickled ginger, ground spice and ginger bites under the BundaGinga. The delicious pickled ginger goes from the ground to the jar in just 12 hours ensuring peak flavour and moisture, unlike the inferior, foreign imports that rely on food colouring to imitate freshness.
Dave and Meg Galati’s family-run company have survived floods, pests, and disease since expanding the family business from Victoria to Bundaberg, nine years ago. David and Dominic’s parents Rosa and Ross started in Bairnsdale 25 years ago. Today, the family business also includes Rosengal Wholesale at the Melbourne Markets to sell both the Bairnsdale and Bundaberg produce.
Rosengal produces delicious green beans, flat beans, butter beans, borlotti beans and the sweetest green peas on both farms to ensure a year-round supply. Dave believes you can taste the difference with their handpicked vegies and they do stay fresher and greener.
Grunske’s by the River
Paul and Beryl Grunske have built a reputation for selling the very best seafood direct from local fishermen. They also operate their own prawn and scallop trawlers along the East Coast and Torres Strait. Their fish is predominantly wild caught and when it comes to shark they are 100% nose to tail.
Not only can you sit back and have some great fish and chips, the seafood market is a sheer joy to shop in. The freshest fish and shellfish on ice share space with an exceptional range of meat, bottled sauces and more. Here you can source Hervey Bay scallops on the half or whole shell or the pearly scallop meat.
Throughout the year the best seasonal varieties of oysters, prawns, crabs, bugs and scallops from all over Australia are available. But Grunske’s proudly champion the local products with a Winterfeast Seafood Dinner that featured 98% local fish and shellfish.
Linda and Darren Zunker have been growing sweet potatoes for 15 years, but the Zunker family have been in the region since the 1870’s. Like Bunda Ginga, Windhum Farms enjoy the special conditions of rich volcanic soil and extra sunlight from the northeasterly aspect of the Hummock.
Unlike the U.S. where sweet potato is cured to increase sweetness, in Australia, all varieties go fresh from the farm to market.
Sweet potato is harvested here all year round and in the last few years, the Zunkers have supplemented the popular gold varieties Beauregard and Orleans with the white-fleshed Bonita and the purple and white Eclipse.
Amanda and Larry Hinds are the sorts of people that make things happen. Indulge Café’s motto “We know where it came from and how it was made” gives only a small indication about how they champion the local produce of the North Burnett, Bundaberg and Southern Great Barrier Reef.
They have combined with a number of local producers to put Bundaberg on the map as a culinary destination with events such as Winterfeast. Over the years they have become friends with the growers, fishmongers and butchers of the region.
They worked side by side with these local suppliers to create events such as Winterfeast’s Midnight in Paris and Sunday Soiree. The food at Indulge Café is both pretty on the plate and satisfying for the soul.
In 2015 and 2016 they won the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide People’s Choice award for their fresh and inventive cuisine. They are at the forefront of the growing unpretentious and down to earth dining Australians and the world are craving. (Indulge Cafe is under new management as of 2017).
Bargara Brewing Co.
In an effort to keep a little more of Australia’s $5billion annual beer revenue in Australia, six mates in Bargara decided to show Bundaberg and beyond what a real brewing company could do.
Co-founder Jack Millbank is proud to put Bundaberg on the map for beer and that you can sit in the middle of the brewery enjoying your craft beer.
They use 100% rainwater for all their beers and Bargara Hard Apple Cider. Bargara Brewing brews a range of beers sustainably on site from their Hip Hop Indian Pale Ale to their Rusty Roo Red Ale. This is true craft beer using wild and macadamia yeast for brewing. Their range is available in Brisbane and in many cities along Queensland’s East Coast.
It’s easy to see why Bundaberg is the next big thing on Australia’s growing culinary map – it’s the delightful people and the marvellous produce in this magnificent place.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – coming soon with more growers, café’s, and a Cook’s Tour.
TML was a guest of Bundaberg North Burnett & Southern Great Barrier Reef Tourism.