With plenty to offer locals and visitors, the inaugural Wild Harvest Seafood Festival showcased and celebrated an abundance of local seafood and had plenty to offer beyond the culinary experience on the weekend.
An initiative of East Gippsland Marketing and the East Gippsland Food Cluster, conducted by a small but enthusiastic team, around 1000 attended the festival with a huge variety of firstclass seafood dishes to tempt the taste buds of festival goers.
Attendees had the opportunity to try sea urchins, abalone, Sailor’s Grave UNI beer (made with sea urchin) and North of Eden Gin (infused with kelp).
Food truck operators who attended the event hailed it a success with many selling out of some, if not all, of their items.
A favourite of the crowd was the CootaQ clam chowder, made with south coast clams, Lakes Entrance prawns and Eden king fish.
Celebrity chef and first time visitor to Mallacoota, Alejandro Saravia, enjoyed hisvisit to the coastal town, proclaiming that he will be back to see and experience more of the area, and will bring his family next time.
The festival began at the Mallacoota Golf Club on Friday with the launch of new book, Head Down Bum Up, by father and daughter team, Fred and Heidi Ledwell, chronicling the evolution of the abalone industry in Mallacoota. Fred was one of the pioneers of the local industry, he and Heidi travelling for two years to interview people from the early days of the industry, compiling stories for their book.
There are many anecdotes, some laughter and some tears in the stories and many photographs of the early days of abalone diving in Mallacoota.
Seventy-five per cent of the book’s first run was sold within the festival’s first two days.
Andrew and Gabi French, of Snowy River Station, had a surprise visitor at their stall at the Wild Harvest Seafood Market on Saturday when acclaimed chef Alejandro stopped to buy some of their produce. Chef Alejandro is Food and Beverage Ambassador of Gippsland and loves and promotes Gippsland produce.
Among the local produce Alejandro utilized in his cooking demonstrations were Andrew and Gabi’s saltwater vegetables such as samphire, beach bananas and seaweeds.
Youngsters were kept busy with Parks Victoria Junior Ranger activities, rockpool rambles and bushcraft.
Some lucky participants were able to enjoy the celebrations, and the idyllic location, from the water.
More than 50 festival goers joined the East Gippsland Catchment Management uthority and Parks Victoria aboard the MV Loch Ard for a tour of the bottom lake.
Taking in Swimming Point, the Narrows and a surprise visit from a couple of playful dolphins, guests learnt about the estuary’s ecology and cultural significance while soaking in its stunning beauty and wildlife.
Budawang elder from the Yuin nation, Noel Butler, and his wife, Trish, led a group around Mallacoota, introducing them to native foods found in the local environment. An enthusiastic group sampled native berries and listened as Noel talked about medicinal uses of sap, leaves and grasses.
He pointed out flowering blossom on nearby trees and its connection with the seasons and indicating the spawning and changes of season for fishing.
Walking towards Devlin’s Inlet, Noel pointed out edible sea plants, including Warrigal greens, which James Cook’s crew ate to ward off scurvy. These antioxidant-rich native plants are becoming more popular with modern day chefs and are often used in cuisine in Australian restaurants.
Saturday Sippers Seafood and Skippy saw amazing seafood enjoyed with local beers and wines to the sounds of local music before Skippy and the Intruders was watched by families at the outdoor cinema.
Fishcare fishing clinics on the Sunday saw lines cast from the Main Wharf while others took part in a tour of the AFCOL abalone processing plant to see for themselves the transformation of shellfish from ocean to plate.
East Gippsland Marketing marketing manager, Hayley Hardy was thrilled with the event.
“We are so happy to see the event be so well supported and enjoyed,” she said.
An overall amazingly successful and busy weekend will see the Wild Harvest Seafood Festival become an annual event on the Mallacoota calendar.
“We hope that next year’s event is even better,” Hayley said.
“Thank you so much to all the local community members who got behind this event and made it possible.”
PICTURED: Drift Restaurant’s Mahala Pickett, Leigh Hennessy, and chef, Nathan Pickett, of Eden, at the inaugural Wild Harvest Seafood Festival at Mallacoota, which ran across the weekend from Friday, April 12, to Sunday, April 15.