Menus will be built around farmers

Menus will be built around farmers


Farm Online News
FOOD LOVERS: Former owners and creators of Indulge Cafe, Amanda and Larry Hinds, outside the Bundaberg establishment which raised the bar in terms of using local ingredients. Photo: Paul Beutel

FOOD LOVERS: Former owners and creators of Indulge Cafe, Amanda and Larry Hinds, outside the Bundaberg establishment which raised the bar in terms of using local ingredients. Photo: Paul Beutel

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Farmers will be the stars of modern menus, according to one local-food obsessed chef.

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FARMERS, not head chefs, will dictate menus in the future.

It's a bold and confident prediction from chef, foodie and Queensland produce advocate, Amanda Hinds.

For more than a decade, Amanda and her husband Larry owned Indulge Café in Bundaberg.

It flourished from a small outlet tucked up the main street into a trend-setting food hub leading the charge in the use of local ingredients.

HOME GROWN: Indulge Cafe has built a reputation for using local ingredients and crediting the farmers behind the produce. Photo: Paul Beutel

HOME GROWN: Indulge Cafe has built a reputation for using local ingredients and crediting the farmers behind the produce. Photo: Paul Beutel

In 2016 it won the state-wide Brisbane Times Good Food Guide 2016 People's Choice award, nudging out cafes on the Gold Coast and Brisbane.

Drive up Bundaberg's Bourbong Street and it's rare not to see Indulge Café packed.

Littered with references to local farms, farming families and regions, its menu items are instant appetite creators and make even the most seasoned diner salivate:

  • Pratt’s banana, Bundaberg macadamia and nutmeg brioche toast with whipped honey butter;
  • Eden Farms Raspberry studded doughnuts with elderflower French cream, raspberry crush, fired Italian meringue and ice-cream;
  • Attard’s roasted sweet potato, onion jam, rosemary, goat’s cheese and mozzarella pizza with rocket and garlic yogurt;
  • Local Bargara Brewing beer bread, cider creamed French onions, Tantitha ironbark honey and hickory pork sausages, thin cut bacon, poached eggs and gingered beetroot relish;
  • Miso cream fish stew with Burnett Heads spanner crab, scallops, Tu’s tiger prawns and local Hussar finished with local X.O sauce, Bundy lime, shallots, shoots and fresh bread for mopping up.

At the core of the success is the store's motto: "We know where it came from and how it was made''. 

While Indulge carries on under new ownership, Amanda and Larry have relocated to Toowoomba but have not lost their drive to see Queensland restaurants and cafes embrace what's on their doorstep.

"I think we need to forget a little bit about chefs being the big head spokesman for this sort of thing and it really needs to come back to this person (the farmer)," Amanda said. 

"I think that's the new revolution of chefs. They are going to be putting that farmer forward and it's going to be all about them.

"It's going to be about what they want to grow and then menus are going to work around the farmer."

Amanda says it's impossible to compete with the freshness of local produce.

INDULGENT: One of the decadent creations from Indulge Cafe, Bundaberg. Photo: Paul Beutel.

INDULGENT: One of the decadent creations from Indulge Cafe, Bundaberg. Photo: Paul Beutel.

She recalls the story of a catering event where a diner commented that she'd never tasted peas like those served during the meal.

"I said that's because they were on the vine this morning and now they're on your plate," she said.

Part of incorporating produce grown in the region involves making connections to farmers.

Amanda says the Bundaberg district farmers she worked with have created some life-long friendships.

Knowing the people behind the food helps to promote the story behind each dish at the café.

"It's that general connection which you'll never get with mass produced frozen fast food from interstate," she said.

"If you have a fantastic piece of beef, we want to know it's from Oakey; we want to know was it an Angus?

PACKED: Indulge Cafe's reputation for quality food ensures it is regularly full of those appreciating its diverse menu. Photo: Paul Beutel

PACKED: Indulge Cafe's reputation for quality food ensures it is regularly full of those appreciating its diverse menu. Photo: Paul Beutel

"The story is huge, absolutely massive."

Micro-region is a term Amanda says is increasingly coming into play as consumers become aware of food miles and provenance.

"From a travel perspective, where tourists are concerned, why wouldn't someone want to be eating the produce of your region?" she said.

"It's an amazing thing to have something like a macadamia - that is in a restaurant - and the farm is 15 or 20km away - 10km away where Bundaberg is concerned."

It is "millennials" that are continuing to push this change ahead. Amanda says they are more prepared to wait for quality food and pay for it, unlike any generation before them. 

WIDE TASTES: The diversity of products grown and produced in the Bundaberg region can be seen on the menu at Indulge Cafe. Photo: Paul Beutel

WIDE TASTES: The diversity of products grown and produced in the Bundaberg region can be seen on the menu at Indulge Cafe. Photo: Paul Beutel

Her passion escalates to something more verging on anger for Amanda when it comes to a particular bugbear: fish. 

She said it's curious that menus throughout the state boast Tasmanian salmon when there is an abundance of reef fish to be utilised.

"We have Tasmanians coming here and eating their own fish. It seems bizarre in a way," she said. 

"We are farming Murray Cod in the Toowoomba region- why aren't they on the menus? Why are we using Tasmanian salmon?"

In the bigger scheme of things, Australia has only just cottoned on to food-tourism over the last 40 to 50 years  according to Amanda. 

"In Queensland, we are just starting to understand culinary tourism, soil, breed and varieties. We are realising that people are travelling for food and wine and that they want to taste the food of the region they are visiting," she said. 

Queensland boasts more than most states when it comes to primary produce and the state has an abundant and diverse selection coming from many sectors.

MENU ITEM: Chef Amanda Hinds says she believes a new trend will be for farmers to feature heavily on menus which will be built around what is available in the region. Photo: Paul Beutel

MENU ITEM: Chef Amanda Hinds says she believes a new trend will be for farmers to feature heavily on menus which will be built around what is available in the region. Photo: Paul Beutel

With Toowoomba region their new home, the Hinds have wasted no time in exploring what's out there to use.

She highlighted products like local sorghum and farmed quail which were begging to be utilised.

"They should be on the menus. They should be proud to have them rather than bringing them in from somewhere else," Amanda said.

Breaking down the barriers between food preparers and food growers is a skill the Hinds quickly developed in their Bundaberg years.

It's one they aren't letting go of either with the pair currently involved in Darling Downs tourism and other projects which see them investigating exactly what's out there and good to eat.

Amanda said they would "very shortly open another restaurant in the country " but for now, there were plenty of tastes to test, farms to visit and new growers to seek out. 

"We are so lucky to be where we are," she said.

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