At the weekend, I went on a very different food journey, a real one with stalls and stages, chefs and foodies, and such an array of food that I’m certain both my stomach and tastebuds were confused and overwhelmed by all the options.
Held at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton, the SBS Food Journey Festival not only captured the few rare rays of sun we’ve seen this year, it also managed to capture some of SBS’ most loved food personalities and some of Melbourne’s culinary heroes, all in one food hub over March 4-6.
And the best part? It was a festival that was Melbourne sized. So, armed with my fire truck red SBS Food Journey Festival bag, I commenced my new food journey. It started with a peek at the Feasting Stage. Graced by presenters like Mark Olive, Adriano Zumbo and Gabriel Gaté, I decided to catch the ever-so engaging Maeve O’Meara with Kerim Degal (Mesnoy Injera Bakery, Footscray) in the Secrets and Spices of Ethiopian Cooking presentation. The packed audience eagerly awaited the assortment of sweet and savoury breads, salivating at Kerim’s descriptions while he and his mother prepared a traditional curry.
Next was the Outdoor Entertainment Stage. It included a bevy of hosts all weekend, including Tony Chiodo – chef and author of Feel Good Food; Clive Peeters’ expert barbecue chefs; the Byron Bay Chilli Company and more. I managed to catch the inspiring environmentalist Costa Georgiadis, in his entertaining and passionate talk entitled You can make a difference! Occasionally munching on produce from a nearby herb garden stand to distribute to amongst his audience, he discussed the methods and benefits of growing your own garden.
The great thing about the structure of the festival was the open feel about it. Although there was designated seating for presentations at all the stages, you felt welcome to sit in on talks and demonstrations at any time, and if by chance you felt peckish or curious to see what else was on, you could up and leave whenever you pleased. Thus, this was the philosophy of my visit and many of the festival-goers I observed; picking at food stalls, enquiring about products, roaming past the various stages, etc. There is something very relaxing about feeling like everything is at an arm’s length, and as far as food was concerned, this was definitely the case.
Food stalls surrounded the stages outside – imagine all the usual suspects from local farmer’s markets and seasonal instalments, like the St Kilda Beach Night Market. And inside the covered area was a nest of delights – this is where the fire truck red Festival bag came in handy. Exhibitors filled the centre of the Royal Exhibition Building, offering samples, taste tests, discounts and competitions. Needless to say, this is where I joined many in a culinary field day. This is also where the SBS shop was located; the place to be for book signings and 'meet and greets" with all the presenters.
I can’t be wrong in asking, 'What more could a foodie want?". Apart from perhaps being able to select the exhibitors to the discretion of one’s palate, I would say that the SBS Food Journey Festival is a wonderful addition to Melbourne’s culinary celebrations, and a flattering reflection of our city’s eclectic and diverse food culture.
When the opportunity arises, I would definitely recommend venturing out for the next SBS food journey, but if you can’t wait these top picks should suffice.
My festival favourites
- Grill plate from Señor BBQ – 0419 105 127
- Milk Chocolate Walnut and Caramel Mousse from Ganache Chocolate
- Sausages from Dunav Butchers & Smallgoods – (03) 9546 8582
- Mesnoy Injera Bakery, 77 Irving St, Footscray – (03) 9687 8855
- The Brownie Classic and The Brownie Macadamia from Michel’s Fine Biscuit Co.
- Maple Walnut ice cream and Swiss Chocolate ice cream from Movenpick Ice-cream
- Raspberry and Passionfruit cordial combo from Cunliffe & Waters
- 2009 Lenotti Bardolino Wine from La Cantina Wines
- Honey Bomboniere Pots from Aintree Farm.
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