By Margaret Maccoll
Noosa celebrity chef Peter Kuruvita regards the Noosa Food and Wine Festival as one of the world’s best which is high rating indeed given his work and television shows take him across the globe.
For Peter the benefits are multiple.
It provides a platform to showcase Noosa’s exceptional produce, his skills as a chef and his Noosa Beach House restaurant.
And for Peter as well as Noosa’s collection of highly rated and up and coming chefs the festival provides the opportunity to connect and collaborate with chefs across the country, and it helps inspire their future cooking.
The Sri Lankan-born chef said when he arrived in Noosa six years ago Noosa’s dining scene was very different but with the arrival of world class chefs, the demands of customers, many interstate and international, and the input from the festival it has changed dramatically.
“Tourism Noosa has brought all the local businesses together and over the past two years it’s just ramped up,” he said.
“They do a brilliant job organising it.
“A lot of good chefs, all the big names, are regulars and look forward to this.”
It helps that Noosa is geographically blessed and the event can be combined with a family holiday.
Peter brought his signature style in 2013 to Noosa Beach House in partnership with Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort after eight years as executive chef at Sydney’s iconic Flying Fish Restaurant.
The attraction for him was both the laid lifestyle for his family, his love of surfing and the restaurant.
Once he arrived Peter discovered more about the abundance of fresh and seasonal, locally grown food which has made a big impact on his ability to source local ingredients and his menu.
For a chef who specialises in seafood the Sunshine Coast region has meant an abundance of Mooloolaba prawns, Moreton Bay Bugs and Spanner crabs are on his doorstep as well as a wide variety of fish.
“It gives us wonderful variety,” he said. “All these creatures are endemic to the area.”
In addition to seafood Peter has invested time in sourcing local produce from hinterland farmers including Noosa Reds tomatoes, Cooloola Berries and Hinterland Feijoas. He said it was only since moving to Noosa from Sydney he had returned to using pineapples and bananas.
“I could never get that sun-ripened flavour in Sydney,” he said.
Peter said cooking to the seasons was a challenge for any chef.
“In this world of globalisation at the supermarket you can get anything from anywhere,” he said.
“In the old days you worked seasonally. If artichokes were around you used artichokes. It’s a way to find the best chefs. When everyone has the same ingredients you can make your decision about the quality of the chef.”
One of the first questions restaurant customers ask is whether the food comes from Noosa, he said.
“You can’t get everything (here) but what you can is great,” he said.
“Farmers are working hard to manage their land well. We do all work together to support the locals.”
And you only have to visit the Noosa Farmers Market to see the community support for local produce, he said.
Farmers are also working together with a number of organisations having formed to support the region’s sustainable agriculture industry. Country Noosa, FAN, Slow Food Noosa and Permaculture Noosa are helping local farmers network, build on their knowledge, connect with the community, source markets and organise events.
It’s not all smooth sailing for local farmers.
Third generation farmers Maureen Piggott and Brett Johns have found to maintain their farms they have had to adjust and diversify.
Both farmers have had to let go of the dairy farms their grandparents ran after price cuts made small dairy farms unsustainable and have found other industries. Maureen now runs Alpacas on her Kin Kin property which is one of the oldest farms in the region while Brett switched to beef cattle on his 100 acre Cooroy farm.
Maureen said many other farmers in the region had given up and left their farms but she was determined to continue doing the work she loves and thinks more education and awareness of the work of farmers would make a difference.
“I want people to learn about the work farmers do for them,” she said. Brett’s family began dairy farming in the area in the 1890s but changed to beef cattle about 20 years ago.
“I’ve watched a lot of change in the district,” he said. “The old farmers are a rare breed and now there are different approaches to farming.”
Producing an all local product Brett takes his animals for slaughter to the meat works at Gympie, the meat is butchered at Wright Cut Meats at Cooroy and sold directly from his Cooroy farm.
Like most small farmers in the region it is community support that is essential to its continuation. Events like the Noosa Food and Wine Festival help to shine a light on both the produce of the region’s farmers and the food dished up in our restaurants.
The very popular Food and Wine Festival will dominate the Noosa Shire from 16-20 May.
Guests to the festival can choose from a wide array of dining pleasures from exquisite meals prepared by the country’s best chefs to the festival village offering entertainment, cooking demonstrations and tastes from local producers.
Events such as the Taste of Hinterland Farm Trail and Slow Food Noosa Snail Trail, Noosa Brewery Trail, Noosa Country Drive, Taste of the Hinterland with Matt Wilkinson and A Real Taste of Noosa with Matt Golinski will highlight Noosa’s Hinterland and its primary producers.
Peter Kuruvita will be involved in a number of events including the Long Lunch on Hastings Street on Saturday and a new event this year, Black Noir, a black tie gala dinner for guests who will dine in Hastings Street which will be transformed into a glamorous and theatrical celebration. Both events are sold out.Peter will also team up with Margaret River chef and organic pig farmer Evan Hayter from the Arimia Winery to create a 5-course menu with matched wines. Peter met Evan while filming SBS’s Coastal Kitchen and both share a love for sustainable produce and seasonality.
“He loves these pigs,” Peter said, and will be bringing some of his pork with him for the menu. Peter said the down side of producing animals for food was in having to kill them but he was impressed with Evan’s attitude. “They only have one bad day – it doesn’t last long and they aren’t stressed” Evan told him.
Peter will join some old friends when he teams up with Neil Perry and others to prepare a lunch the way they used to when they all worked together at Perry’s Blue Water Grill restaurant in 1986.
Peter said he was 10 years into his cooking career and wanted to include flavours from his homeland when he met “this Anglo cooking with Asian flavours”. They will be joined by former work mates including Andy Davies from Locale and Katrina Ryan from the Pig and Whistle.
For more information on the Noosa Food and Wine Festival visit noosafoodandwine.com.au