Over 250 invited chefs, producers, winemakers, entertainers and media will descend on Noosa and its iconic surroundings during May to join food enthusiasts from around the world to celebrate the good things in life.
Jim Berardo, founder and director of the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival, is thrilled to announce the most exciting and comprehensive line-up to date as this world-class event continues into its eleventh year. He says, ‘The 2014 Festival will strip away some of the formality and will be one big party.’
Tim Montgomery holds the position of Executive Chef for both berardo’s restaurant & bar and the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival. Tim relocated from Bacchus in Newcastle to assume his current position. He was also previously Head Chef at the award-winning The Manse. In 2007, he was invited to be one of the guest chefs at the Festival to participate in a special degustation dinner at berardo’s restaurant & bar. The rest is, as we say, history.
Under his last tenure, Bacchus was awarded four consecutive Chef’s Hats in the SMH Good Food Guide. Tim’s menus go beyond the farm to the table, weaving a locavore story into the menu at berardo's restaurant. His food philosophy is simplicity with imagination; well balanced meals combined with creativity, passion and a strong sense of regionality.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Tim and dining at berardo’s restaurant & bar while holidaying in Noosa recently. Tim is a humble and genuinely lovely man, and I’m grateful to him for spending time with Peter and myself, especially given that I was more than 20 minutes late for our appointment as I was waiting at berardo’s bistro on the beach, unaware that there was another berardo’s restaurant & bar.
Our conversation follows:
Congratulations on your appointment as Executive Chef of the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival, Tim. Tell me a little more about your background:
Thank you, Liz. The Festival is a great event to be involved with. It features some of the best chefs from Australia and around the world.
I grew up and trained as a chef in Adelaide. I worked at The Bathers Pavilion in Sydney with Serge Dansereau for a while and then went back to Adelaide to The Manse. Having been invited to the Festival in 2007, I met Jim Berardo and Greg O’Brien, and then Jim asked me to be the Executive Chef at berardo’s. And now I live here and work here [he smiled] and it’s lovely. There have been a few swings and roundabouts around the way. I’ve lived and worked in Switzerland and London as well. I have done a lot of travelling. It’s good. Cooking is a great career — you can live anywhere in the world.
What’s your involvement with the Festival?
My title is Executive Chef, Noosa International Food & Wine Festival, so I liaise with the chefs, organise all their produce, sponsors. I take care of organising the infrastructure for all the events, the degustation dinners, and just making sure everyone has their produce, and making sure we have enough chefs to run each event, and then I coordinate each event.
Who are some of the big names coming this year?
We have some amazing people coming to Noosa for the event. From overseas we have Franck-Elie Laloum from Shanghai, Alvin Leung (who was just awarded 3 Michelin stars) from Hong Kong, Bruno Loubet from London, Julien Royer from Singapore and David Thompson from Bangkok; among others. From Australia, there’s Shane Delia, Marty Boetz, Guy Grossi, Peter Kuruvita, Neil Perry AM, Justin North, Annie Smithers and so many more.
[We discuss the line up of events and the presenters, Westpac].
There are so many events, aren’t there!
Yes, the Festival is quite huge. From when I first participated in 2007 to now it’s just a whole different ballgame. It’s a four-day extravaganza with over 100 chefs. The main auditorium is down by the River and there are also auditoriums and marquees down by the beach. We have beach parties and riverside picnics and all sorts of different events. We hold the international degustation here at berardo’s restaurant & bar.
There are also cooking classes as well as cooking demonstrations. The way it’s all set up is really quite impressive! The events with the international chefs are truly fantastic and it’s exciting for me to have to plan it. We sit down with Jim and plan the courses. We have a look at each particular chef, see their specialities from their restaurants around the world and around Australia, and then assign them courses. I liaise with them and then go through their recipes and talk to my chefs and make sure we can get their all ingredients and the fresh produce in. It teaches my chefs and myself so much about the different types of cuisine and it’s an amazing experience for us.
There’s also a Food Critics cooking competition, where a bunch of Australia’s top food critics (such as Matt Preston, Simon Wilkinson, John Lethlean) cook off against each other. Those ones get pretty heated [he laughed]. And on Saturday, there’s Australia’s Best Home-Cooked Dish competition. We have finalists from each participating State compete against each other.
Do you have many people from around Australia come to the Festival?
Yes, absolutely. Ticket sales have been really good this year, almost 100% on last year so far. The response from South Australia and Western Australia has been particularly good.
Where do you source all the produce from?
We’ve got lots of good suppliers and sponsors. Andrews Meats supplies the meat; the fruit and vegetables are from Suncoast Fresh; Fishtails, which is John Susman’s company, provides the seafood for us as well. There are a lot of small artisan producers we partner with who supply fresh produce for the Festival. This part of Queensland produces some amazing produce.
[We discuss Noosa Reds tomatoes, which Tim says are as good as the tomatoes he tasted in Italy. I agree. We also talk about this season’s figs from the region, which Tim tells me are outstanding. There’s a fig farm on the Sunshine Coast I’d like to visit].
Myself and the other chefs go to the Farmer’s Market every week. The dairy products, including cheese, that come from this part of Queensland are as good as those you get in France. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality here. It’s really impressive.
[We discuss the Eumundi Markets and Tim tells me about a few of the artisan producers there. We also discuss berardo’s restaurant & bar and berardo’s bistro on the beach. I tell Tim how much I enjoyed the grilled prawns at the bistro and he kindly arranges for the team to cook a batch so I can photograph them and share the recipe here on the blog… watch this space dear readers].
The Noosa International Food & Wine Festival will take place from 15-18 May 2014 at Noosa Heads on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, an hour’s drive from the State’s capital, Brisbane. Together with appearances by the leading chefs mentioned by Tim in our conversation above, more than 80 of Australia’s best winemakers and wine authorities will come together for a series of world-class wine celebrations and masterclasses.
Other Festival favourites include river and hinterland Food Trails, riverside high teas and picnics, retro-style beach parties, Australia’s Best Home Cooked Dish, a cocktail competition featuring Australia’s best ‘mixologists’, sunset concerts, guest chefs at various venues, a Bush & Bluegrass Adventure at the historic Apollonian Hotel, and lively discussions with Australia’s best food critics and journalists deconstructing the latest in foodie trending topics.
For the full program and further information about the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival visit the web site.
berardo’s restaurant & bar, on the upper level of the Oceanbreeze resort on Hastings Street, is distinctly tropical and yet ever so elegant — with a grand piano sitting comfortably amidst the white-stuccoed walls decorated with fish-themed murals. Along with the seasonally focused dinner menu, there’s a seven-course degustation, as well as a local’s menu offering two or three courses. And there’s a program of special events, such as book launches and musical performances.
Our evening meal included Tim’s outstanding chicken liver pâté with local rain cherries (a.k.a. Fibrous Satinash or Syzygium fibrosum); Moreton Bay bug with sweet corn, morel, foie and basil; tortellino of Gympie goat cheese with asparagus, soubise and onion; and a divine Jasmine rice pudding with cardamom, Noosa cane sugar and orange. My dessert was served in a glass in a bowl surrounded by fresh cinnamon quills and cardamom, the scent of which was exquisite and completely enhanced the experience of eating the pudding. Peter and I agreed that the food, service and ambience were outstanding. Thank you to Tim and his team for looking after us.
Tell me dear readers, are any of you planning to visit Noosa for the International Food & Wine Festival? And for my readers from overseas, if you are visiting Australia, do put a visit to Noosa on your itinerary! Watch this space for my upcoming Postcards and Morsels from our Noosa holiday. I feel certain it will whet your appetite for travel to the region.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.