The Taste of Sydney food festival ran last week from Thursday, March 14 – Sunday, March 17, 2013.  I definitely attended to check out what they had and not only for one session, but for three sessions! Call me a bit crazy but there’s a reason behind it.  You see, I’d bought tickets about a month ago and then ended up getting some free tickets so hey, why not? It would be beneficial because then, I could “suss” it out the first time.

What I love about going to food festivals is the opportunity to DISCOVER.  Discover new restaurants, new chefs, new food, new ingredients, new spreads, new dips, new oils, new beer, new wine, new alcohol, etc.  Okay, sometimes they may not be new but they’re new to me so the novelty is there. 

With a plethora of different goods around, it’s easy to get intimidated when going to the store and buying a full pack of X.  Perhaps one may have no idea of what it taste like or even how to prepare or what it pairs with best.  Luckily, vendors at these food festivals are very happy to let you sample and taste the final product.  They’ve done the work of combining and testing out what they know to find the best match together and have it presented for you to try.

The cider tent! Ever thought of trying a "cider float?" I tried it with some frozen yogurt, definitely made for those who can handle the strong tart flavours.  This was a "secret menu" item concocted by a vendor at another tent :) 
Jackie M. cooking up some Malaysian Roti Canai
The Sustainable Living area :)
Some cheese? Don't mind if I do! Let me count the ways I love thee....
It’s no secret that I’m a big (HUGE) fan of gelato and one of THE places here in Sydney, Gelato Messina, has converted me into an addict.  One day, I’ll probably write up a love letter – whether it’s to the gelateria shop and/or to their flavours and/or the art and science behind it, it’ll happen.  Messina holds classes for those who are interested in finding out what goes behind the scenes and to show their raving popularity, all the classes for the rest of the year have been booked out for awhile now!

In any case, the best highlight for me during the Taste of Sydney was being able to watch head gelato chef Donato Toce from Gelato Messina prepare 2 of their popular gelato flavours: salted caramel and white chocolate, and tiramisu.  I learned fun facts like how they go through 1,000kg of sugar per week (mmm…sugar) or that the weekly specials are determined and tested 6 weeks in advanced! Overall, I was a happy camper with a full belly (as usual....).

With Donato Toce of Gelato Messina and with my gelato spoon ready in hand!

Last year, I went to the Good Food and Wine Show as a spectator.  This year, I was on the other side of the table working 2 days of the 3-day event (one of those days was reserved to see LADY GAGA!!) as a volunteer for the Chef's Table, which featured celebrity chefs Adrian Richardson, Anna Gare, and Miguel Maestre from the Lifestyle Food Channel.

During lunch, I did have a few moments to wander around the various stalls and stock up on some products as well as sampling some of the things that were being prepared.  

Most of the hours were spent in the kitchen and on the floor. Each of the chefs prepared 3 dishes - most had 2 savory and 1 sweet and the other chef had all savory plates.  Let's get down to the photos I snapped while I was in the kitchen, enjoy!
Avocado Carpaccio with Seared Scallops
Leek Tarte Tatin
(upside-down tart where the filling is caramelised first before baking)
Pork Sausage with a Soft, Herby, Cheesy Polenta
Choc Date Nut Torte (center, amazing!!!), Leek Tarte Tatin (upper right), Beetroot Cured Trout
Looking at these pictures is surely stimulating my appetite but it could also be that I'm posting this pre-lunch. If you're interested in getting the recipe from any of the above, let me know and I'll send them your way.  
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It's been a whirlwind of a couple weeks and I realize that this is long overdue, oops.  When there aren't any deadlines to meet, this is what happens and my draft sat there waiting to be finished.  It became one of those to-do things you spend more time thinking about than the actual time that it would take to actually do it.

Moving on, sometimes I get people asking me, "Why do you volunteer?"  What they're trying to say and sometimes bluntly ask is, "Why do you work for free?"

Volunteering is not just an extracurricular activity in the past.  I'm not here to preach about it but rather, outline my experiences from it and share the outcome.  I volunteer to give back: whether it's for a certain cause, to give back to the community, or even simply just the passion for it.

Being a part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, especially the World Chef Showcase, was a truly remarkable experience I wouldn't trade for anything.  Hard work and long-hours (nothing compared to the staff who actually work the entire festival) was worth it and it became one of those reaffirming moments where I just knew that my involvement with the food community and culture was only just beginning.

A few months ago, I started reading MoVida: Spanish Culinary Adventures, then eventually went to MoVida Next Door for dinner in Melbourne.  Fast forward some time, then I was watching chef-author Frank Camorra give his demonstration on Spanish cuisine and working alongside the wonderful writer and TV producer Richard Cornish.  It's funny how things work out sometimes.

Others included:

Okay, no more name-dropping!  Wherever you guys live or if you're traveling to any of the places mentioned, I'd recommend to try the restaurants.  There's a reason why they were out here and chosen to represent various countries.  

Done and done.  
A few weeks ago, I had the fortunate opportunity to volunteer for the World Chef Showcase for the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.  It was the big 2 day kick-off event to the festival filled with chefs from different countries (Peru, Brazil, Argentina, the US, the UK, France, Sweden, and of course, Australia..just to name a few) giving demonstrations, tastings, and talks.  Here's a few of the chefs that I was able to meet up and work with and snap a quick photo with:

From top to bottom, left to right: David Lebovitz, Gaston Acurio, Ricardo Zarate, Adriano Zumbo (sorry Zumbo, I couldn't resist throwing in a silly face)
If you're an avid reader of food blogs (you know, apart from mine..), then you'll have to check out David Lebovitz: living the sweet life in Paris.

If you're a lover of ceviche and Peruvian food, then you'll need to:

If you've got a sweet tooth and are in Sydney, then stuff your face silly with some of Adriano Zumbo macarons and other pastries.  

WOW.  I am just full of (even more) links today!

But really, WOW!  Looking back and reflecting on the event and experience, I met and came across so many wonderful people that inspire me to continue growing and do more with this passion of mine.  There's more chefs and writers and people I want to mention but in keeping with my "short posts", I may have to save it for a Part II re-cap.

Until next time, enjoy Friday!