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South Burnett Wine and Food News with Jason Ford

Kingaroy Cheese And Proteco Oils Get Gongs From Top Chefs
Kingaroy Cheese29th March 2004: If you read last Tuesday's Good Life supplement in the Courier-Mail closely you would've seen that Kingaroy Cheese and Proteco Oils (which are both manufactured at Kingaroy's Stuart Range winery) have just received major accolades from the State's top chefs. The Les Toques Blanches Association - literally, the "white hat chefs" - met at Parliament House at a function organised by the Department of State Development last Monday to sample the best food products that Queensland can produce. They also handed out their Association's coveted awards to the top contenders. Kingaroy Cheese added to its rapidly-growing swag of medals by receiving endorsements for its Triple Cream Brie, its Double Cream and its cultured Crème Fraiche. And Proteco Oils - who only submitted a small sample of their range - got gongs for every single thing they entered (ie their macadamia oil, peanut oil and avocado oil). Cheesemaker Chris Ganzer, who represented both companies on the evening, said that he was "delighted" at the outcome. Endorsement means that both firms can now use the Les Torques Blanches label to support their product marketing if they wish. Endorsement is given for 12 months with an annual review by the Association after that, and it's recognised by all the leading chefs nation-wide as a mark of genuine food excellence. Nice to know that all of these products are 100% South Burnett sourced and manufactured.
Kingaroy's Meat for Profit Day Draws a Sell-Out Crowd
Meat Profit Day In Kingaroy26th March 2004: Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) held a Meat Profit Day at Kingaroy'Town Hall on Wednesday 24th March. The event was themed as "Planning for Tomorrow…Today" and the day was squarely focused on the future of beef production in our region - and indeed, Australia's red meat industry as a whole. Some of the topics covered included market trends and projections, the current and likely future state of the domestic and export markets, pasture management, succession planning, genetics and the latest developments in beef research. Jackie Kyte from the DPI told me that a Meat Profit Day was best described as a cross between a field day, a conference, a rural expo and a trade show. Keynote speakers included MLA chairman David Crombie, Eagle Boys Pizza founder and managing director Tom Potter and ANZ chief economist Saul Eslake. The event was enormous and drew a sell-out crowd of more than 600 people from far and wide: a strong indication that the South Burnett is a major player in red meat production. My very own hospitality students (pictured above) were on hand to assist in the catering and served up a morning tea of pumpkin scones and a lunch that included - you guessed it! - roast beef. Attendees that I spoke to on the day told me they felt they'd gained greater insight into their industry's future goals in a globalised economy and - as a happy bonus - took home a greater sense of optimism with them as well. An MLA spokesperson said that it could be a decade or so before this major national event makes its way back to the South Burnett.
Copper Country Relaunches With A New-Look Menu and Decor
Frans Staats in Copper Country's foyer23rd March 2004: Late last year I broke the news that Nanango's famous Copper Country Restaurant was changing hands (see story 19th December 2003). The restaurant had just become one of only three South Burnett eateries featured in the Courier-Mail's Good Life Restaurant Guide and they wrote that while the food there was fabulous, the decor was a little tired and could do with a makeover. Since then, it seems, no-one has heard much of the place. But that's all about to change! New owner Frans Staats will be relaunching Copper Country on Wednesday 7th April with a bright new menu and pretty much a new overall look too. Frans - who spent many years managing resorts throughout Indonesia and South East Asia - has been spending the summer aesthetically altering the restaurant's old English style into a fusion of East meets West. The menu's also undergone a facelift with dishes such as a warm salad of ginger-scented pork with crispy Asian noodles and pan-fried Bratwurst on creamy polenta served with grilled mushrooms and caramelised onion added to the menu. Copper Country will also now have a set dessert menu with decadent items like banana bread pudding served with Southern Comfort caramel sauce and vanilla ice-cream and a retro chocolate fondue with fresh seasonal fruit pieces. The restaurant still offers a wide range of wines and beers at its lounge bar, but if you haven't visited for awhile I think you'll be in for a very pleasant surprise! I know the South Burnett Tourism Association will be: they're meeting there next month to try out Frans' new style at first hand. If you want to go there yourself, you can book direct on (07) 4163-1011. Photo above: Frans Staats in Copper Country's new foyer with its airy, Asian-influenced styling.
New Owners at Kilkivan's Bendele Farm
20th March 2004: Last year I wrote about Bendele Farm at Kilkivan and the wide range of organic poultry they were producing there. I'm now pleased to update that story by reporting that Organic Poultry of Australia (the company that runs Bendele Farm) has new owners. Fred and Sarah Sterns - formerly of Mount Isa - will be taking over the operation in the next few weeks. Original owners John and Kristy Douglass will be taking a back seat and well deserved break, but will be continuing in a mentoring and advisory capacity to the new operators. Sarah explained to me that she and Fred are "hitting the ground running" trying to keep up with the pace set by the Douglass family and they have plans to expand the business even further. First on the agenda is to build a new shed after Easter that will house more birds and essentially double the farm's production capacity (demand for Bendele Farm's organic poultry has well exceeded supply for some time). The second item of business will be to market and promote the firm's range of organic turkeys. "Plenty of Australian farms are producing free-range turkeys, but Bendele Farm are Queensland's only organically certified turkey producers," Sarah told me. "We hope that turkey can make the transition from being a seasonal meat eaten at Christmas and Easter to a year-round alternative to pork and beef". The organic industry has been taking great strides in the South Burnett and making quite an impact around the country. In fact, it's the world's fastest growing niche food market at the present time. Makes you wonder why our country is experimenting with "frankenfoods" like GM canola when - so obviously - the general public don't want it.
South Burnett Foods Featured In "On The Land"
On The Land17th March 2004: Channel Seven's On The Land TV program visited the South Burnett recently to produce some up-coming segments for its 2004 series. Executive producer Les Abel and cameraman Eric Martin travelled from Sale in Victoria to take in the sights of our region and cover various food-related stories for their program. First on the list was a visit to well-known local farmer Rob Patch, who took the pair on a tour of his peanut farm and then proudly introduced them to his nationally-famous tourism attraction The Peanut Van. Next on the agenda was a lesson in peanut production and new technology at the Peanut Company of Australia's $1.7 million Innovation and Technical Centre. PCA Marketing Manager Juli Robertson said that the TV crew also took in a tour of the silos and blanching plant. During the visit I had the privilege of filming a cooking segment for the show's South Burnett cooking feature (where I'll be seen making a delicious Spicy African Peanut Soup). During the pair's three-day stopover, footage was also taken of local dairy production and an additional segment was filmed at the award winning Kingaroy Cheese factory with Master Cheesemaker Chris Ganzer. The show's editor told me that the South Burnett feature will be broadcast in the next couple of weeks and will be presenting a "Paddock to Plate" theme. On The Land can be seen on the Seven Network on Sunday afternoons at 1.00pm (EST) or at midday in regional Queensland.
PCA Regional Cuisine Cook-Off Draws Record Crowds
Kylie Barron being interviewed by WIN-TV14th March 2004: The 3rd annual PCA Regional Cuisine Culinary Competition held at the Tarong Mine Wine & Food In The Park Festival in Kingaroy yesterday drew record crowds. And if you stayed the full course, you would've found that Steve Gudzinski from the Red Earth Restaurant took top honours in the competition for the second year running for the Best Overall Dish; Paul Stoddart from the Burning Beats Cafe won a gong for the best use of peanuts in a dish; and Kaz Walsh from Stuart Range Winery won a gong for the best food and wine match. But the real surprise winner of the day turned out to be 17-year-old Kylie Barron from Kingaroy State High School (see story 2nd March, below). She impressed judges Peter Howard and Alison Alexander so much that they created a special prize just for her: an Encouragement Award consisting of two days training with Queensland's top chef David Pugh at Restaurant II in Brisbane (a prize Alison arranged with a quick call on her mobile as the cook-off progressed). In coming weeks I'll have more to say about this fabulous cooking competition which is jointly sponsored by PCA, SQIT and Tarong Energy - but if you watch WIN-TV news tonight you'll likely be able to see an interview they conducted with a fairly stunned Kylie on Saturday (see picture above). It's well worth watching.
Bunya Nut Brittle Debuts At Yarraman's Speckled Chook
11th March 2004: The Speckled Chook Country Craft Market in Yarraman opened for business late last year and over the last few months has begun to build up a wide range of South Burnett foodstuffs to complement its equally broad range of hand made crafts. Right now the store sells well-known local food products such as Proteco Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Oils, Fruit Wedges from Kumbia and Spring Gully Olives. And much to my delight it's also just begun stocking the exciting new Bunya Nut Brittle made by the Colonial Candy Co. from Petrie (the candy company's chief confectionery cooks are two ex-locals from Kingaroy!). The brittle is packaged with the Speckled Chook's logo and I think it would make a great gift or a sweet South Burnett souvenir for almost anyone. Other boutique products on the store's shelves include Jill's Coffee from Caboolture and jams from Hampton (Hampton Blue). Speckled Chook's owners Kerin Hall and Vanessa Hobbs tell me that they hope to install a cold cabinet later this year so that the shop can also start stocking Kingaroy Cheese's award-winning cheese range. Both women are also keen to unearth other local food products they can stock - so if you're a food producer you should make contact. The Speckled Chook Country Craft Market is located in Margaret Street, Yarraman and is open on weekdays (except Tuesday) from 9:00am to 4:00pm, weekends and most public holidays. You can phone them on (07) 4163-8075.
Wine Industry Steps Up Marketing
8th March 2004: One of the biggest problems that the South Burnett wine industry faces at the moment is that the region is still less well known than the Granite Belt (even though we're already a much bigger growing area) and is still virtually unknown to the vast majority of the wine-buying public. While most Australians are familiar with wine regions like the Hunter, the Barossa, Margaret River and Coonawarra, any mention of the South Burnett usually draws a blank. One the one hand this isn't surprising: most of the famous Australian wine regions have been in production in one form or another for most of the last century. This gives them a lot of mindshare against the 8 years we've been producing wines here. On the other hand, the South Burnett has the distinct advantage of starting its life as a wine region with the most modern infrastructure and the best scientific knowledge about Australian wine-making practices. This is something most of the other regions only came to by trial and error over the course of decades. All the same, it's become obvious that lifting "brand recognition" for the South Burnett is fundamentally important if we're going to increase wine sales. So over the last 9 months - in conjunction with the South Burnett Tourism Association and the South Burnett Local Government Association - the South Burnett Wine Industry Association has been working hard to develop a regional branding logo for the South Burnett. The public will finally get to see it this Saturday when it's officially launched at the Wine & Food In The Park Festival in Kingaroy. And right now the SBWIA is also looking at hiring an PR consultant for the next 12 months to lift the region's brand recognition around the nation, which will involve all participating members digging in their pocket on a monthly basis to fund the work. Both of these moves are laudable and show that our local industry really has its thinking cap on. Expect more news on this topic in future!
End Of Drought Hits Local Wine Grape Growers Hard
5th March 2004: Oh what a difference a few weeks and a bit of rain can make to the fortunes of our agricultural producers! When I returned to writing this column in late January the first white grapes were coming off our region's vines and local winemakers were looking down the barrel of their second bumper harvest in a row. But during the last 5 weeks a series of explosive thunderstorms has dashed those hopes - especially as far as red grapes are concerned - and many of our grape producers have taken a big hit instead. The worst losses I've heard about (probably because they operate the largest vineyards) were at Moffatdale's Clovely Estates, who sacrificed more than 450 tonnes of shiraz grapes when the drought broke. And the most heart-breaking loss I've heard about is the one suffered by Peter Eaton and Maryanne Pidcock at Captain's Paddock near Kingaroy, who saw their January expectations of a 30 tonne harvest cut back to a slim 9 tonnes by February's driving rain. But my sources tell me not one of our grape growers escaped from the drought-breaking rains unscathed. And it seems they're not alone. Nationally the 2003 grape harvest is projected to be down by 15% overall and the white grape harvest in particular is down by 18%. In this latter area (at least) the South Burnett will do well. Why? Because thanks to our hotter climate, South Burnett white grapes come onstream much earlier than the southern States. This meant that most of our region's white grape harvest was in the crushing bins before the rains came. But reds? Console yourself with the superb 2002s (many of which have yet to come onto the shelves). The drum is that 2003 reds will be a lot fewer in number.
Two Cooks Get Ready To Mix It With The Best
Larry McPaul and Kylie Barron2nd March 2004: Larry McPaul and Kylie Barron were born 26 years apart but they'll both be taking their first big step towards a hospitality career together when they compete in the PCA Culinary Competition on March 13th. The competition, co-sponsored by Tarong Energy, will be held at the Tarong Mine Wine and Wine in the Park Festival at Kingaroy on March 13th. Their joint experience in the kitchen pales in comparison to their fellow competitors but I think they have the passion necessary to upset some of their more fancied rivals. Kylie is a Year 12 Kingaroy State High School student who works at the Pioneer Lodge as a kitchen hand and has excelled in the school's hospitality subjects. Leanne Hixon, Kingaroy State High School's Head of Hospitality, told me that Kylie had shown the most flair of her 85 students and the competition experience would stand her in good stead. "I've given her some advice about her recipe choices," Leanne said, "but it's really Kylie's baby". Larry, 43, is a former cook for oil-finding seismic teams in Western Queensland. He'd also worked in various other jobs before coming to the Kingaroy campus of the Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE to become a hospitality student. Larry said he came to TAFE to do a Certificate III qualification because he wanted to settle in the district and saw the potential for people with culinary skills. "I'd been away from the area and when I came back I found that all these wineries had popped up," he said. "I think the industry will continue to grow here and I really love to cook". Photo: Larry McPaul and Kylie Barron getting primed to compete in the PCA Culinary Competition with their trainers - Jason Ford of the Kingaroy campus of the Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE, and Leanne Hixon, Head of Hospitality at the Kingaroy State High School.

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