• Black lentils and fried fish is one such dish featuring at the multicultural arts festival WOMADelaide this year. (Jason Heerah)Source: Jason Heerah
Artists from all over the world will cook, perform and reveal a bit of themselves at WOMADelaide.
Audrey Bourget

2 Mar 2020 - 10:35 AM  UPDATED 2 Mar 2020 - 10:35 AM

"The act of feeding other people is a very intimate gesture," says Rosa Matto.

It's an idea that she explores every year as host of Taste the World at multicultural arts festival WOMADelaide in Adelaide, South Australia, in March.

This culinary portion of the fair invites artists to share a recipe and cook it on stage while chatting with Matto.

The chef, who is also a food educator, says, "WOMAD is all about introducing the world to people. And for me, my entry into another culture is through food."

Rosa Matto (right) learns more about Brooklyn-based Ghanaian artist Jojo Abot and the food she loves at WOMADelaide.

The process starts at the beginning of each year when artists are asked to send in a recipe. It can be a dish celebrated in their country, a family recipe, something they like to cook for their bandmates while on tour; the choice is theirs.

What is modern Australian cuisine?
As a melting pot of indigenous ingredients and multicultural influences, does Australia have its own unique cuisine?

"Sometimes, we have to substitute ingredients, like that time we had an African artist who wanted a particular flower. In the beginning, it wasn't always possible to get everything, but now, we can pretty much get any ingredients," Matto explains.

During the festival, chefs will prep some food, like chop onions or pickle coriander, but it's mostly up to the artist to cook their recipe in front of a small audience.

Matto says, "While they're cooking, my job is to explore their personal world. I'm a bit nosy so I might ask, 'Who taught you this recipe? What music do you listen to while cooking? These sorts of things. It's a bit like gossip. The audience loves to see the other side of an artist." 

"While they're cooking, my job is to explore their personal world."

Since joining Taste the World in 2014, Matto has cooked dishes with dozens of artists, from chicken yassa with Beninese superstar Angélique Kidjo to Palestinian barbecue with violin virtuoso Ramzi Aburedwan.

"Angélique Kidjo will always remain one of my favourites. She's a big star, but she wants to do all the prep herself and she's so appreciative of everything we do. At the end, she always wants to helps wash the dishes. She's an extraordinary generous woman, very humble and empathetic," says Matto.

Angélique Kidjo shares her art and her food.

Often, the guest will do an impromptu musical performance.

"An artist, you can't stop them doing whatever they want to do," says Matto, laughing. And if they don't bring instruments, that's not an issue.

"Their band members who came to support them will use chopsticks on upturned frying pans, somebody else grabbed two wooden spoons and made a drum. It's extraordinarily chaotic."

"I sometimes say I create a circus and I'm the ringmaster, but I very often lose control."

When Italian traditional music ensemble Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino took the stage in 2015, they had the whole audience dancing the tarantella.

Things can also get emotional, with some guests sharing painful stories about their lives and the struggles of being an artist in their country.

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino took the stage in 2015, they had the whole audience dancing the tarantella.

At the end of each session, samples of the dish are offered to lucky members of the audience. The recipes are published on the WOMADelaide's website at the end of the festival.

This year, Scottish band Rura will teach the audience how they make haddock soup. Greek-Sudanese singer Marina Satti will dish up a moussaka, and Taiwanese dance company B.Dance will make cider pork stew.

You can also see Finnish vocal quartet Tuuletar make Karelian pasties, a popular Finish snack, while Belgian group KermesZ à l'Est will prepare a grilled lamb sandwich with fries.


WOMADelaide is held from 6 to 9 March in Adelaide's Botanic Park. You can buy tickets and see the line-up here.


Love the story? Follow the author here: Instagram @audreybourget and Twitter @audreybourget

The gentile's guide to Hanukkah
For Alana Schetzer, the Festival of Light is always brighter when humour, friends and doughnuts are added to the table.
What not to miss at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival
From a Sichuan snack fair to a Women’s Weekly birthday cake exhibition, here are the events that you'll want to add to your diary.
Rishi Naleendra mashes Sri Lankan and Australian flavours in Singapore
The acclaimed chef will be back in Australia next month at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
An entire festival dedicated to dumplings is coming to Melbourne
Run, don't walk people.
Darwin's month-long laksa festival is back again
With the whole city’s consciousness erupting over a slew of noodle soups and related activities, this laksa trail is encouraging people to eat and vote for their favourite bowl.
This food festival is changing the way the world views refugees
The Refugee Food Festival is transforming the lives and as a result, the possible food career of refugees who get to cook dishes from their homeland in one of 130 restaurant kitchens across nine countries.
Mark Olive headlines an Indigenous food festival 65,000 years in the making
A Taste of Kakadu is here to teach us how to embrace traditional Indigenous cooking techniques today.
Meet the queen welcoming Japanese women to ramen
The Ramen Girls Festival is all about breaking through the glass ceiling, one bowl of noodle soup at a time.