Tori Wilson spent a little time finding out about a few of the local chefs to be featured at Gourmet Escape and a couple of things were clear. Their deep passions for the region’s local land and produce tie them together while their own distinctive styles set them apart.
You can’t get much more local than Josh Whiteland. Having grown up in Busselton on a family farm, he’d be fishing, hunting and foraging from an early age across the landscapes of the Margaret River region.
So naturally he’s been a part of the Gourmet Escape experience since the beginning, showcasing the food touring experiences he offers through Koomal Dreaming.
As a passionate cook who lives by the Aboriginal calendar of six seasons, Josh is an expert on true local produce and blending the native flavours of Australia into fresh dishes. The ingredients that Josh will typically work with very much depend on what’s available seasonally.
I love to catch fresh kangaroo when it’s nice and fat during the cooler months. During the summer months you’ll target seafood a bit more because during spring you’ll have access to it with the spring tides.
Abalone, local squid, fish and shellfish are big on his menu.
A desire to share these authentic Aboriginal experiences surrounding food and connect people visiting the Margaret River region with the local culture was a driving factor behind the creation of Koomal Dreaming.
“I’ve been working in tourism for 15 years but I created Koomal Dreaming about eight years ago because I saw a need for extended tourism experiences,” says Josh. “People want to connect to the country and understand the local area.”
Through Koomal Dreaming Josh offers a variety of touring options with the full-day experience including the opportunity to go foraging for your own native produce. But whether it’s a coastal trail or a tour of the Ngilgi Cave (where the acoustics make the traditional music sound incredible) Josh will spend the time hunting and foraging to prepare the best of the region’s seasonal produce for his guests.
Join Josh at Gourmet Escape for his Twilight Cape Cultural Tour at Cape Naturaliste, where you’ll learn about the native plants, animals and landscape while sharing native food cooked on the open fire.
While British-born chef George Cooper wasn’t born and bred in the Margaret River region, he fell in love with the South West’s abundance of fresh local produce and seasonal varieties in 2012 and has since called Margaret River his home.
The popularity of the region among tourists and his skills as a highly trained chef with an English Michelin background provided George with the opportunity to establish his very own private dining experience, Food by the Chef.
He says the philosophy behind this dining experience is all about combining classic dishes and modern culinary techniques using fresh, local, in-season produce to create something truly authentic in the comfort of his guests’ own space.
I take classic combinations of dishes that mean a little bit to me and are a bit personal, so a lot of emotion goes into the food. Our philosophy is very much about being almost self-sustainable with our produce, so being able to grow all year round.
He uses produce grown directly from his own garden as much as possible. “It’s very seasonal. At the minute I’m growing everything from potatoes, peas, beans, brussel sprouts, pumpkins, cabbages, three different types of cauliflower, radishes, fruit, leeks and onions.”
Join George, who will be working in collaboration with Chilean chef Rodolfo Guzman, at Gourmet Escape for a six-course dining experience titled Dining by Twilight, where he’s most looking forward to connecting with the guests and sharing his food philosophy.
Unsurprisingly, Australian chef Paul Iskov follows suit when it comes to a deep passion for the fresh, native produce of the Margaret River region and a love of the land.
After working in top restaurants around the world that worked with ingredients native to their own countries, Paul was inspired to return home in 2013 and pay homage to his own – giving rise to a pop-up dining experience, Fervor.
“Fervor harnesses fresh ingredients, with a focus on locally sourced and native produce,” says Paul.
He says that he and his team choose to present the food in unique locations to create culinary journeys where diners get to explore distinct flavours, enhanced by their immediate surroundings.
We hope that from this experience, the guests take home with them an appreciation of the beautiful produce Australia has to offer – produce you can’t get anywhere else and produce we need to embrace as a nation.
Paul deeply believes that we need to care for the land to preserve its fascinating and nutritionally dense flora and fauna.
He says that we need to look to the First People for knowledge of the ingredients which they’ve been living off for thousands of years.
Join Paul at Gourmet Escape for The Highlife event where you can experience the fruits of his ethos firsthand.
“We’ve connected with a friend from Skyhook helicopters for this event to give people the chance to not only experience the great food we’ve got to offer in the region but also to see the South West from a different perspective – the sky.”
Guests will enjoy a scenic flight over the Margaret River region and its spectacular coastline before sitting down in a remote location to enjoy a six-course lunch made by Paul and his team at Fervor, all paired with amazing local wines.