This last weekend I was given an opportunity to revisit Kangaroo Island, a region of South Australia that is truly unique, spectacularly beautiful, possessed of a remarkable, growing food culture and now their very own food festival – the Kangaroo Island Feastival. The brainchild of KI born and bred Nick Hannaford, last weekend’s fabulous knees-up was only the second event since it’s debut last year and already has attracted significant interest, sponsorship and attendance – with almost twice the number of guests this year than in 2012.
As the main driver of the event, the utterly indefatigable Nick Hannaford has not only the energy, but also impeccable credentials to produce a food and wine festival with such a unique focus. After growing up on the island, Nick moved off into mainland food and event management running distinctive corporate and incentive events throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific, in extraordinary locations ranging from rivers to the Daintree Forest. He had also spent some time working in his mothers restaurant – Adelaide’s iconic Jolleys Boathouse – and when he eventually made his way back to Kangaroo Island he was ready to use all he had learned to showcase the unmatched assets of his home.
Simply by virtue of it’s pristine location, diverse scenery and exclusive food products,Kangaroo Island Feastival is a food and wine festival unlike any other. Setting out to capture the spirit of the island and it’s people – many of whom are fifth and sixth generation islanders – this particular festival offers a totally different experience by offering guests access to the people and locations, creating a truly unique and memorable event.
From the beginning Nick was keen to use the significant points of difference on the island as the keys to the events he and the local food and wine producers put together. With this in mind he created events like the pop-up oyster and wine bar, where guests donned waders and waded out to tables set up on boats. Staffed by local sailors, the oyster grower and wine producers, the guests chatted about sailing, food and wine while standing in the water that the oysters they were eating had been grown in.
For visitors to the island who wanted to have a genuine experience of not only the fabulous food, but also those who live it and produce it, there were a series of ‘Table Surfing” dining events which were held by the individual producers in their own homes. Once again offering guests a unique experience and the opportunity to enjoy produce and insights from the producers, these events were hugely popular and quickly booked out.
Seafood lovers had the opportunity to meet the amazing fresh lobster and seafood fished from the pristine waters around the island, before sitting down with some of the local producers to enjoy eating it at a lunch at Ferguson Australia and gin junkies joined master distiller John Lark of Kis in a masterclass on gin. John shared his knowledge on the history and production methods of gin before leading guests through blind tastings and then a meal with a gin-inspired menu prepared by himself.
There were gourmet fishing charter trips, a mystery picnic, a hands-on cooking masterclass with Tim Bourke (head chef of the very exclusive Southern Ocean Lodge) and Kate Sumner (owner of Kangaroo Island Source, which provides gourmet food production, cooking classes and catering on the island), celebrity chef dinners with George Calombaris, Maggie Beer and Andrew Fielke – all using the exclusive and distinctive local produce – and the huge day that was Tasting Kangaroo Island at the Wharf. The latter was the main event and offered guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in Kangaroo Island with historic guided walks, fish smoking demonstrations, live entertainment, the Kangaroo Island Signature Dish competition and by enjoying lunch and a drink from the many food and wine stalls.
With our current culinary obsession, there are many food and wine festivals around these days. While they all offer fabulous products and amazing eating opportunities, in my opinion none can offer the absolutely unique experiences that the Kangaroo Island Feastival does. There are foods produced on this island that cannot be found anywhere else in the world – I spent a large part of the weekend getting to know some of the producers and will be introducing you to them over the next few weeks. Many of them offer farm-gate purchasing or cafe facilities so that you can enjoy their products on the spot or take them home – making Kangaroo Island the ideal culinary holiday destination.
Actually, it seems to me that Sealink, the only form of public transport to Kangaroo Island, should really be on top of this and offering culinary food tours, day trips and over-night trips. Why they haven’t caught on to what is potentially a lucrative income stream is beyond me – there’s a lot more to the island than kangaroos, koalas and seals – and there would certainly be a market for it. But maybe that is a subject for another post. 😉
The Kangaroo Island Feastival will be back again next year and promises even more in the way of exclusive food and wine experiences. I’ve heard some hints of what Nick Hannaford has in mind for next years event and it sounds like it will be building even more on the festival and offering more amazing unique events in unique locations.