Returning this August, the annual Gascoyne Food Festival sees an impressive line-up of Western Australian chefs heading north to celebrate the region’s produce.
This year’s festival will be spread between Carnarvon, Exmouth, Dirk Hartog Island and Mount Augustus. Headline events include an all-star long table lunch on the bank of the Gascoyne River; a barbeque-on-the-beach at the Carnarvon Yacht Club, and the Gascoyne Growers’ Market. More adventurous festival-goers can bring their own four-wheel drive (4WD) on a Gourmet Island Escape to Dirk Hartog Island where they will experience beachside camping, guided tours and food from guest chefs.
Must Winebar chef-patron Russell Blaikie is a frequent visitor to the region and says Dirk Hartog Island has become a popular destination for eco and 4WD adventurers.
“Carnarvon’s a bit of a frontier town, it always has been,” he says. “But if Carnarvon is a frontier, then Dirk Hartog Island is outer space. When you’re driving up the coast and into the little bays, you get the sense that you’re the first person who’s been there.”
Tour participants will partake in two meals cooked by Blaikie, who promises dishes inspired by the region’s diverse ingredients.
“Everything we’re going to put on the table is from the area,” he says. “There are goat, sheep and beef producers in the Gascoyne. We’ve got blue manna crab, deep-sea crab, prawns and pink snapper. You can catch dhufish and Spanish mackerel in Shark Bay because there’s a mix of north and south varieties.”
Guests at Blaikie’s dinner should brace themselves for some improvised cooking.
“We’ll do a paella,” he says. “But we’ll light up a big campfire, weld up a big metal grid, lower it from a forklift and hold the paella pan over the fire. That way we can raise and lower it according to the heat. I want to get some smokiness in there. We’ll put in whatever we catch, be it crabs, prawns or squid.”
Festival visitors without a 4WD can still attend Blaikie’s long table lunch at the island homestead on August 10. Asian flavours will feature prominently: think pink snapper sashimi and prawns dressed with nam jim made from local grapefruit. In what is hopefully not a bad omen, Blaikie says dessert will be a “Gascoyne Mess”.
Other WA chefs cooking at the festival include Amy Hamilton (Liberte), Don Hancey (Panorama Catering), Stuart Laws (Don Tapa), Paul Iskov (Fervor), Matt Nebel (Hamptons City Beach), Danny Sanchez (The Flour Factory), Peter Manifis (Passion Meets Purveyor), George Cooper (Food by the Chef), Caroline Taylor (The Humane Foodist) and Sophie Budd (Taste Budds Cooking Studio).
The Gascoyne Food Festival runs from August 6 to 19. Event information and tickets are available on the festival website. The Gourmet Island Escape costs $1542 (four days/three nights) or $2856 (seven days/six nights) per 4WD with two adults.