Food from the farms to plates

CHRISTINA della Valle has always believed "what is good for my animals is good for the consumer eating the meat".

Next week she has a chance to share that philosophy in an initiative designed to make the Whitsundays famous for its food.

Ms della Valle's Whitsunday Beefalo and Berkshire Gold products will be part of a "farm to plate" strategy about connecting producers, restauranteurs and people who like to eat, while also putting the region on the foodies' map.

Next Monday and Tuesday, Australian celebrity chef Matt Golinski will be one of the star attractions at a Farm to Plate dinner hosted by the Tides Restaurant at Peppers Airlie Beach and a regional produce master class and farm tour.

The other star attractions will be the food.

The dinner menu on Monday night will feature almost exclusively local produce including crabs, prawns, reef fish, beef, and a shoulder of Ms della Valle's pork.

There will be ricotta cheeses made from local milk, as well as local honey, macadamias, strawberries, coffee and chickpeas.

Among the phenomenal veggies, zucchini, baby corn, Bowen tomatoes, whole ranges of herbs and rainbows of capsicum are set to shine.

Even the drinks will be locally sourced including rum, vodka, schnapps, ginger beer and mango puree for cocktails.

Mr Golinski said using local produce was one of the things he was passionate about.

"I love the fact that every region in Australia has different produce, different climates and different people producing it," he said.

"When you are a chef that loves to cook, and you meet a farmer that loves to produce, you are an unstoppable team."

Farm to Plate project leader Rose Wright said planning for a regional farm to plate strategy, developed through the Whitsunday, Mackay and Isaac councils, State Government and local tourism bodies, actually started a year ago.

"And what came out were some really clear opportunities to connect the region - we have a huge, relatively unknown produce, grown, caught and raised in the region and the amount we consume in the region approaches a billion dollars in the year," she said.

"That's a huge market."

Ms Wright said the master class and farm tour on Tuesday was about developing capacity for farmers to connect in the market and look at how they could open their farms to locals and visitors.

She reiterated the aim behind the farm to plate strategy and upcoming events was for the Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac regions to one day be known for their high quality produce and food experiences.

Ms della Valle, who is just as passionate about giving consumers a healthy, ethical product, and even plays classical music to her animals, agrees.

"And I hope it will make people in the Whitsundays realise that local produce from places like Bowen is the way to go - they know where it comes from and they can investigate it personally. Hopefully it is very good for the region," she said.

"From paddock to plate, from birth to bacon - my pigs are raised on veggies, they don't get any antibiotics or any hormones and you get pure pork the way pork should be."

Whitsundays Marketing and Development Limited Economic Development Manager Denise Kreymborg said next week was a fantastic opportunity and that having Mr Golinski in town was a great starting point.

"To host a celebrity chef of his standard in the region shows how great the industry is and that the opportunity is there," she said.

Although Monday's dinner has already sold, Mr Golinski highly recommends Tuesday's master class and farm tour, which are free to attend.

The day includes catering, transport, master class resources and a regional produce sample bag.

Bookings must be made by 6pm, Friday, June 12 and tickets are available through the website whitsundaytickets.com.au.


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