Last updated: 02:58 PM ET, Thu August 06 2015

Australian Chefs Cook Up Travel Experiences

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | August 06, 2015

Australian Chefs Cook Up Travel Experiences

PHOTO: The Tasting Australia Festival is coming again to Adelaide next May. (Courtesy of South Australian Tourism)

Credit the Australian wine industry for putting the country on the track it is now, a track that leads right to the kitchen. The quality and freshness of Australian foodstuffs in combination with a mélange of ethnic culinary sensibilities and the characteristic Aussie innovative spirit have created a competitive cuisine where chefs don’t feel bound by tradition. For travelers, food and wine have been major attractions in a destination that offers up large portions of nature, adventure, urban sparkle, oceanfront and art. No wonder than that a poll late last year found that

26 percent of Australians listed wine as one of their great obsessions.

And the critics agree. In July, four Australian restaurants were put on the S. Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants list. A list comprised by the votes of 900 of the world’s top chefs, restauranteurs and critics. The restaurants were No. 32 Attica (Melbourne), No. 58 Quay (Sydney), No. 84 Sepia (Sydney) and No. 87 Brae (Birregurra, Victoria).

Food and wine are now established as reasons to go to Australia and New Zealand. Interestingly, the island destinations of Fiji and Tahiti that are often visited via stopovers enroute to the two big destinations down under are doing more to improve and promote their cuisine. Fiji’s Laucala Island Resort, for instance, has empowered its Executive Chef, Anthony Healy, to install a farm-to-table plus foraging element to the resort.

Back in Australia, food festivals are popping throughout the states. Next spring, for instance, the Tasting Australia Festival (May 1 to 8) will return to Adelaide highlighting South Australian produce, wine, chefs and artisanal food crafts. Last year’s festival presented such events as the Lime Cave Degustation Lunch that served mushrooms grown in a cave at a McLaren Vale winery.

QT Hotels & Resorts an Australia designer boutique hotel brand named the industry’s first dedicated “Forager,” Georgie Neal. Neal will be charged with building working relationships with farmers and growers nationwide to source fresh, seasonal produce for QT Hotels & Resorts' restaurants including Gowings Bar & Grill in Sydney, Capitol Bar & Grill in Canberra and the interactive marketplace concept, Bazaar, at the brand's beach and ski resorts in Port Douglas, the Gold Coast and Falls Creek.

Even in the red rock heart of the country, Australians are affirming the importance of food. The Ayers Rock Resort is taking guests along a new Bush Tucker Trail that explores the indigenous foods enjoyed by the Anangu people. Now every restaurant in the resort is employing such flavors as Lemon Myrtle, Kakadu Plum, Bush Tomato, Quandong and Wattleseed in a range of menu items.

The dishes also reflect a fusion of indigenous and international tastes including Braised Pork Belly Sliders; Kakadu plum chili sauce, cucumber and macadamia nut salad; an Outback Pizza topped by smoked kangaroo, emu strips, mushroom, onion, roast red pepper, bush tomato; Grilled Crocodile Tail; and Kangaroo Mignon, Grilled Kangaroo Mignon with mountain pepper, seasonal vegetables, potato gallette and bush tomato jus.

In addition to menu items, a range of Bush Tucker cocktails have been developed by the resort’s Mixologist Ty Bennett. These include a Lemon Myrtle Martini, a Quandong Capriocsa and Native Mint and Desert Lime Mojito.

Western Australia’s Walk into Luxury offers high end travelers like to call “rugged luxury.” One package begins with a helicopter transfer from Perth to the Margaret River region for an all-inclusive five- to eight-day walk of the region’s fine wineries with post-walk massages, gourmet food and wine, and luxury accommodation at top resorts and boutique retreats. The tour includes exclusive tasting menus with matching wines at premier Margaret River wineries and restaurants. Walk into Luxury also donates 5 percent profit from every walk sold to regional charities.

The vineyards, the soft adventure and the award winning restaurants are important come-ons for a luxury market that Tourism New Zealand recently assessed at around 12 million high net-worth individuals living around the world. The study found that 28 percent from North America, 20 percent Europe, 20 percent Asia and 10 percent Latin America.

The appeal of Australian travel to this market has helped make the annual Luxperience travel show a success after just four years of operation. The show attracts luxury and experiential travel buyers from around the world each fall to Sydney and will take place this year from Sept. 6 to 9. For Tourism New Zealand, the show delivers as bountifully as it does for Australia. Luxperience 2015 is expecting about 300 exhibitors and 400 buyers from across the globe. 

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