A Food & Travel Blog

The 2016 Symposium of Australian Gastronomy

16/12/2016 | By

The Symposium of Australian Gastronomy was first held in Adelaide in 1984. This year I attended as it came of age in Melbourne.

Symposium of Australian Gastronomy - madeleines & lamingtons for morning tea

What do Australian food thinkers have for morning tea? Madeleines & lamingtons, of course! (See Proust.)

On the first weekend in December this year I beetled over to Melbourne to attend a feast for both my brain and belly –  the 21st Symposium of Australian GastronomyThe first ever Australian Symposium was held in Adelaide in 1984 and was convened by Michael Symons, Gay Bilson and Graham Pont, with attendees including Don Dunstan and the now-internationally renowned Australian food historian Barbara Santich.

This year was the coming of age for the event, which was inspired by the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. 

Symposium of Australian Gastronomy lunch dessert supplied by Melbourne farmers markets

Symposium of Australian Gastronomy cheses from Melbourne Farmers Markets

Delicious desserts (including possibly some of the last SPC peaches) and gorgeous local cheeses (I wasn’t quick enough with my camera) at our lunch provided by Melbourne Farmers Markets.

Held over four days, the conference takes a particularly academic look at food, food production, foodways and food security. This years program was extensive and totally satisfying. It offered eight plenary sessions, 24 different papers, various panels and workshops – all delivered on various aspects of food and presented by food scholars, researchers, producers and writers from around the world.

Symposium of Australian Gastronomy Warialda beef producers & chef Matt Wilkinson

Warialda Beef producers Allen & Lizette Snaith and chef Matt Wilkinson of Pope Joan – The Farmer & the Chef: a Conversation about Collaboration and Compromise.

Symposium of Australian Gastronomy lunch of slow cooked Warialda Beef

Melbourne Farmers Market lunch with slow-cooked Warialda Beef .

The many speakers and presenters included eminent US food scholar Dara Goldstein, founding editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, Stephanie Alexander, wine afficionado Max Allen and Bunurong man, Bruce Pascoe, the award-winning writer, editor and anthologist. Bruce is the author of Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident – an exploration of Aboriginal agriculture which has been shedding light on the history of indigenous land cultivation and management practices.


Symposium of Australian Gastronomy negroni workshop

One of my favourite sessions – getting serious about Negronis at a workshop with Australian spirits, bitters and vermouth.

Symposium of Australian Gastronomy lunch

Yeringberg vine leaf dolmades & Skipton smoked eel paté – a special lunch inspired by the 19th century Yarra Valley friendship between Willaim Barak, Aboriginal leader at Coranderrk, and the de Pury family, wine growers of Yeringberg and attended by descendants of both families.

Check out the symposium’s website for the full program – it may even be possible to get copies of some of the papers if you are interested (although I’m not entirely sure about that).

Of course you don’t put 150 or so food experts together without some pretty serious feeding plans and, as expected, the food was spectacular. They included excellent meals at some of the local Melbourne culinary hot spots, including Mr. Ottorino and Marion Wine Bar, Andrew McConnells new venture, but the utter show stoppers were truly the lunches and dinners we enjoyed as part of the conference.

Symposium of Australian Gastronomy, pork pie picnic

Now that’s a pork pie – part of a picnic lunch supplied by local producers and Piper St Food Co.

Symposium of Australian Gastronomy pickled eggs

Just when I thought I’d explode from too much rich food, on another day we were treated to a perfect and simple lunch of rice balls, pickled carrot salad and these divine pickled eggs.

Symposium of Australian Gastronomy line-caught kingfish

Simply dressed, line-caught Kingfish – part of chef Annie Smithers fabulous final symposium banquet.

 Unfortunately hunger (greed?) and lack of adequate light precluded much in the way of photographs, but I think you’ll get my drift from those I’ve included.

The Symposium is a moveable feast and is next scheduled to be held in 18 months time. Stay tuned for the location.

Symposium of Australian Gastronomy another morning tea

When too much morning tea is barely enough!

Subscribe to Lambs' Ears and Honey

Enter your Email
  1. Lizzy

    Gosh, I wish I could have attended this one, Amanda. Sounds fab. Thank you for sharing your mouth watering postcards. xxx

  2. Peggy

    Wow, what an extravaganza!

  3. Jacqui

    Wish I could have been t here!!! 🙂

  4. Ruby & Cake

    What an amazing event wish I could have gone!