What are you up to at the Noosa Food & Wine Festival this year? With the festival this year we’ve localised it more, which is nice. We’re right in the middle of it in Hastings Street, so we’re always open for business at the Beach House restaurant and bar. The special events that we’re doing are a dinner with Adam D’Sylva [of Tonka and Coda in Melbourne] called Subcontinental Voyage. At first we were going to do an alternate drop with one of my dishes and one of his, but then Adam said, ‘No, let’s try to get both of our food out to everyone’. So that’s the plan, everybody that comes to this event will get to taste all of the courses from both of us, so come hungry. Adam and I have collaborated a few times before, which works perfectly with that whole subcontinental thing we have going on – him with India, me with Sri Lanka and both of us being brought up in Australia – so it should be a good fun night.
There’s also a long table lunch that goes all the way down Hastings Street. Basically we’re creating share dishes for two people for the length of the table. The great thing about this event is that all of the restaurants in the area do it, so you’ve got this huge table that goes down the middle of Hastings Street that’s closed off to cars and people have a lot of fun. I’ve just returned from India on a culinary tour, so the first course from me is a rice papad, which is like a pappadam but much crunchier – it’s like a prawn crisp but made out of rice flour. We’re going to have that with Rockliff spanner crab, Rockliff being a local supplier here, and an eggplant pickle. For the main course we’re doing a Petuna ocean trout served with a ginger, chilli and shallot sauce, which I created after being disappointed by Singaporean chilli crab and deciding I needed to come up with a better sauce. For dessert, I had to do something Sri Lankan, so we’re doing a watalappan, which is a kind of baked custard with palm treacle, cashew nuts and all of the beautiful Sri Lankan spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. When it’s baked, the treacle sort of leaches out of it – it’s one of my favourite desserts.
The final event I'm involved in is Sunday lunch with Peter Kuruvita, which will be at the restaurant. It’s one of the most affordable tickets on the program and includes two courses, which I decided to make an entrée and a main. The first course, which will again be to share for two people, is an Iranian meze plate with smoked zucchini, garlic dip, smoked eggplant, garlic and pomegranate, steamed spinach with yoghurt, marinated olives with pomegranate juice and house-made garlic flatbread served with cucumber yoghurt. We’ll then go to Mexico with a chilli relleno, which is basically a stuffed poblano chilli that’s been lightly fried in egg whites so that it goes puffy. We’ll layer the sweet poblano chilli with zucchini, potato and fresh local prawns.
Any events that you aren’t involved in, but are keen to check out? Make Peace With Wine is amazing. I’ve cooked on Richard Branson’s island a couple of times. I’ll be around for most of the events. It’s nice to see all of the suppliers come up. I’m really quite happy and proud that our line-up of chefs are mostly local, because we’ve got so many great chefs in this country and for many years these kinds of food and wine events didn’t focus as much on talent at home.
Is it true that Noosa Food & Wine Festival is like Schoolies for chefs? It is kind of. It’s a really good event – it’s like a busman’s holiday for the chefs. As long as they work hard and do their job they’re allowed to have a bit of fun as well. Here, we’re in a great environment, we have surfing competitions and all kinds of other fun stuff, so it’s actually an opportunity for chefs to let their hair down a bit, but also to show us what they’ve got.
You’ve travelled all over the world. What makes the Sunshine Coast special? In the last three months I’ve been all the way from Greece to Iran, UAE, India, Jakarta, Manila and Sri Lanka, and I just have to stop myself when I tell people how beautiful this place really is. Crystal-clear water, 15 or 20 surf breaks, 70 kilometres along the beach to the biggest sand island in the world, which is Fraser Island, 40 kilometres of leash-free dog beach and a really friendly community as well. It’s a cycling heaven, great for stand-up paddleboarding… it has it all. But one of the most important things about this festival is that we could run it all without having to step more than 100 kilometres from Noosa to get all of the produce we need.
Check out the flavour-packed recipes in Peter Kuruvita's cookbook, My Feast.