Food, wine, beer and… education

Food, wine, beer and… education

East Gippsland Food, Wine and Beer festival is back for a second year this Saturday at the Bairnsdale Racing Club and it’s not just about the food, beer and wine, but also education.

Organisers, Evan Downie and Aaron Kyriazis, are excited by the festival’s expansion, saying education has been a key focus for the 2019 set up.

“Education, workshops, masterclasses – that’s something we thought we didn’t have enough of last year so we really wanted to beef that program up,” Aaron said.

“You can organise an event, call a whole bunch of amazing producers in one area, but you kind of want connection to the produce so people can walk away and say ‘I had some great stuff to eat, I drank some amazing beers and started to develop my palate, but got some great education as well.

“The most important thing is walk away and say ‘what a great day out, I learnt how to grow stuff in my apartment on a windowsill. I had a meet and greet session with Gabriel Gaté; he taught me the importance of cooking my own produce grown in the backyard,” Evan said.

“They can take something away from it – it’s not just a day out to get drunk and eat some good food.

“We’ve got amazing educators from all over Australia that are free with your ticket and you’ve got access to an amazing program.

“I don’t think we’ve had something of this scale with educational cooking and produce classes in our region before.”

Gabriel Gaté – famous throughout the 1990s and early 2000s for his television work with Bert Newton – is one of the major attractions.

He will take part in meet and greet sessions and will be mingling in the VIP area while also commentating as Mark Briggs, head chef at Paynesville’s Sardine restaurant, takes on a Ready, Steady, Cook-style challenge.

“He told this great story back in the 1950s, 60s, the French Government, to promote tourism into regional areas, they would get a variety of different trades, chefs being at the top of the list, for young apprentices they would get flown overseas to another kitchen,” Evan said.

“The government would set that up with a Michellin star kitchen, they go learn a few tricks, then go the US, then somewhere else, then they would bring back their new tricks and techniques to their small country town and next thing, 12 months later there were Michellin star restaurants in country towns.

“Now you have these culinary masters in France producing worldclass food who chefs around here look up to.”

“He’s doing the confidential kitchen. It’s a separate ticketed event inside the masterclass, and basically we give Mark Briggs, from Sardine, a local bag of in-season produce. He doesn’t know what’s in there and he has to figure out something to cook. Gabriel will commentate, so that will be pretty cool and engaging,” Aaron said.

The idea behind the festival stems from Evan and Aaron’s desire to showcase the best of East Gippsland and regional Victoria within a regional setting, away from metropolitan influence.

“Why we ran it in the first instance goes back to growing up here. Growing up here, there was nothing going on then and when we moved back, there was still nothing going on, however, there’s a small little food movement happening with a couple of really great chefs in the region; a couple of nice wineries started opening up, so we thought, what are we doing in Bairnsdale, our home town? Yeah we’ve got some festivals happening dotted around these beautiful little parts – but Bairnsdale is the gateway to East Gippsland – you’ve got to drive through Bairnsdale to get here from the city,” Evan said.

“So we thought, why not run an event at probably the best outdoor venue in East Gippsland.

“Melbourne is the hub, so is Sydney, Brisbane, Perth – why is it only the metro areas that can draw all these regional businesses? Why does everyone have to go to Melbourne? Why can’t people come to East Gippsland?

“Our vision is to showcase Victoria in East Gippsland, because no one does that regionally. Generally you may go for a weekend away and go to the local market; you’ll go to the local festival; you’ll have foodies from just down the road, and that’s great, but for locals, that’s not so great.

“As an attendee myself, if I went to this festival, I’d say ‘they’re all the same players. I go to these places for lunch, for breakfast on the weekend – there’s not really much here’. What am I getting that’s different?

“Yes, it is about the vendors, but it’s mostly about the attendees because we want to bring something different to both tourists and locals.”

“It’s very important to show the best of Victoria in East Gippsland,” Aaron said.

“We’ve got infrastructure supporting mass tourism and this is going to boost tourism in the region by having major events.

“It’s going to give younger people a chance to volunteer. We’re working with GRAEP (Gippsland Regional Agrifood Employment Program). They are supplying some volunteers. They are all about giving younger people an opportunity to get some experience in tourism, hospitality and events, which is severely lacking in our region.”


Green Space

Noon – 12.15pm: Organic Agriculture Association - A local representative will be speaking about how to control pests in your garden without pesticides.

1pm – 1.20pm: Clare Voitin - Clare Voitin is a lover of eclectic pursuits. Clare’s mission is to encourage greater awareness around the food space, inspiring others to become more sustainable with food.

1.30pm – 2pm: MediPharm Labs - A leader in cannabis extraction and purification, MediPharm Labs will be talking about the advanced methodologies used in their purpose- built facility to deliver pure, safe and precisely-dosed cannabis concentrates and advanced derivative products.

3pm – 3.30pm: Gippsland Pearls - Providing advice to attendees on growing mushrooms and how it can be done at home.

4.15pm: Sailors Grave Giant Pumpkin Challenge weigh in.

Masterclass Area

11.30am – noon: Country Women’s Association (CWA) - Scone making masterclass including demonstration of method with tips and tricks at home. Sample the scones with jam and cream.

12.15pm – 12.45pm: Tarago Cheese - Learn the finer points of ‘soft surface, and mould ripened’ cheese made on a farm in North West Gippsland. Roger, from Tarago Cheese, will explain the role of the ‘Affineur’ and some critical aspects of the cheese ripening process. Enjoy cheese tasting and some discussion about the best way to store and use this unique category of specialty cheese.

1pm – 2pm: Malting workshop with Brendan O’Sullivan (head brewer of 3 Ravens). Over the last few years, Thornbury’s 3 Ravens Brewery has been dabbling in small batch malting - the ancient art of turning grass seed (such as barley, wheat or rye) into something that you can use to make beer - or whisky. 3 Ravens will introduce you to the general concepts and basic science of malting and show you how you can do it yourself with household items such as plastic buckets, a bread machine, a hot-air gun and a toaster oven.

2.15pm – 2.45pm: Brewers Q & A with Sailors Grave, 3 Ravens and Exit. Ask those burning questions you have for a commercial brewer while sampling some of their finest.

3pm – 4pm: Confidential Kitchen. The ticketed session will see Gabriel Gaté entertain the crowd and commentate as Mark Briggs, of Sardine Eatery + Bar at Paynesvillle, will create a dish from local, in season, mystery produce.