The moment I heard about the inaugural WA Food and Drink Symposium (FADS), I knew I wanted to be involved.
I’ve been in Perth for around three years now. I’m originally from Sydney, but have been coming to Perth to visit my family every year since I was a kid. Other than childhood memories of pretty good fish and chips, there hasn’t been much else to write home about as far as food in Perth goes. Or at least there wasn’t.
Hand on my heart, I can honestly say that I am in a constant state of awe at how amazing Western Australia’s food scene is. It is an ever-growing, young and fresh movement, full of passionate professionals that are doing things every bit as well as their Eastern States counterparts. It deserves to be celebrated and events like this can only help inspire more locals to forge out a career for themselves in an exciting industry.
I contacted the team at FADS and offered my services in any way possible. However I could help, I wanted in. After several sessions of brainstorming, we came up with the idea for FADS Fight Club.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks and we’ve locked in the line-up and sit down for our first meeting. As I took my place at the round table at the Lalla Rookh Wine Store, I couldn’t help but marvel at the group of people we had gathered. There was Katrina Lane and Ai-Ling Truong, the powerhouse team behind FADS. The two of them have been involved in pretty much every Perth food event worth its salt.
There was Scott Brannigan, the chef responsible for those lamb ribs at Bread in Common, a restaurant I have frequented many times and am yet to have a sub-par meal. He was joined by Jesse Blake, the head of Petition Kitchen and a one-time sous chef at Cumulus Inc – Andrew McConnell’s timeless and seemingly unstoppable Melbourne eating house. He’s yet to hit 30 years of age, yet succeeds spectacularly at making me feel like a massive under-achiever. Then there’s Caitlyn Selkirk, the face of Donnybrook’s Custard & Co cider and a good friend. She’s such a hard worker, always full of ideas and one of the biggest cheerleaders for West Australian booze.
I had approached Hippocampus, West Winds and Limeburners to sponsor us and they all jumped on board. It’s testament to the idea and spirit of FADS that so many great people came to the party without hesitation. It’s always a pleasure working with great liquor and the brands that have got behind us are easily some of the best being made in the country.
We want the night to be a fun, relaxed celebration to WA food and drink: a six-course degustation sans pomp and stuffiness. To make things interesting, we’ve formed two teams to battle it out. Otherwise what sort of fight club would it be?
On one side, there’ll be Scott and Caitlyn who’ll be matching dishes with excellent beers and ciders. I know Caitlyn has been hard at work convincing local breweries like Eagle Bay and Nowhere Man to break out some of the experimental brews they’ll be showing at next week’s Good Beer Week in Melbourne.
In the other corner, Jesse and I are collaborating on some really interesting cocktail pairings. It seemed only appropriate that I use some native ingredients so expect to see some ingredients such as saltbush and wattleseed featured on our beverages.
It’s been really great getting to experiment and get creative with cocktails again. I’ve been cooking a lot and doing bartending shifts pumping out drinks, but actually crafting interesting drinks from scratch is a different ball game. I’ve always felt that creativity is a bit like a muscle. If you work it out regularly, it gets stronger and inspiration comes easily. If it’s a bit neglected, it can be a slow and painful process to get it all moving again. Jesse Blake’s creativity is like a well-oiled machine. The morning after our first meeting I woke up to an email including two separate menus with fully realised dishes for me to choose from. (Cue feelings of inadequacy and a good dose of imposter syndrome).
But I got there. It’s taken a week, a few sleepless nights, some wasted umeboshi plums and many a torn notebook page, but I’m really excited about the pairings we’re presenting this Sunday. Collaborating with amazingly talented people, flexing those creative muscles celebrating an industry I’m passionate about and raising funds for an important food discussion: what’s not to love? The only thing better is seeing the look on people’s faces when they’re eating and enjoying the fruits of our efforts. I hope to see you at this Sunday’s event.
Jessica Arnott was a finalist in season 7 of MasterChef. She will soon be starting as head bartender at licensed fromagerie, Fromage Artisans.
FADS Fight Club will be held at Dominion League on Sunday May 14. Tickets are $90 and include a welcome drink from Brave New Wine and six courses of food paired with matching drinks. Tickets are available online.