November 2018 | Lorraine Clarke
THE HUMBLE district of Mole Creek was recently visited by a world-class foodie. Alex Atala is a Brazilian with 70,000 Facebook followers, an ex-punk rocker and DJ turned world-class chef and restaurateur. He owns the São Paolo restaurants, D.O.M., Dalva e Dito and Açougue Central, where he fuses fine dining with wild and wonderful native ingredients from the Amazon basin.
He didn’t set out to be one of the world’s top 10 Chefs, but his restaurant has 2 Michelin stars, and was voted 4th in the world in 2012. Atala has his own TV show and writes cookbooks. He came to Tasmania with his sous-chef Brendan this month in a tour organised by Tourism Northern Tasmania, seeking to taste local produce in its natural environment.
“Hats off to whoever organised the tour and brought Alex Atala here,” said Springfield Deer Farm owner Michal Frydrych, who believes our future lies in getting international exposure for Meander Valley’s superb foods. Michal cooked for and with Atala in the rustic setting of Springfield Deer Farm. He barbecued his own free-range organic venison, cooked a local kangaroo mini-roast and spiced up King Island wallaby with native pepper berries.
Michal also used Stephens’ Honey, and preserves made by Deloraine’s Amble Inn, because his vision is not only about Springfield, but embraces regional foods. Michal, who has won two prestigious delicious Produce Awards, was somewhat daunted at cooking in the presence of such an illustrious epicure. He confessed that he had never roasted kangaroo this way before, but Alex put him at ease by saying,
“Michal, let me help!” Alex is keenly interested in all local products, and willing to use anything. “Personally, I’m an olive oil, garlic and lemon man,” said Michal. “I want people to taste the venison.” Alex immediately requested some Springfield venison to take to the $250 per head Chromy’s Dinner where he was guest chef that night. Michal also took venison to TAFE where Alex was doing a cooking demonstration.
“Local chefs are scared of venison,” said Michal. “They don’t know what to do with it. We need to change people’s mental approach. It’s about educating the chefs. Showing them where free range venison is produced, how it is prepared.”
Michal is delighted to arrange a one-on-one farm visit for professional chefs wishing to learn how to prepare venison. “People are preaching paddock-to-plate, but very few understand it.” They come to Springfield Deer Farm and see the fallow deer herd free-ranging on the side of a mountain overlooking Mole Creek, where they have the best life before being harvested in their prime, under stress-free conditions, on-site at Michal’s licensed abattoir.
Springfield Venison is sold at the monthly Deloraine and Mole Creek Markets, and farm gate sales by arrangement. Froggie’s Bakery makes venison pies, Westbury’s Gourmet Butcher and Casalinga in Launceston produce venison smallgoods. Deloraine Deli and the Empire Hotel feature venison on their menus.
Michal recently returned from his sell-out stall at Flavours of Tasmania held in the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra, where he was among many other Tasmanian food producers showcasing our superb gourmet fare ranging from bottled water through beers, wines and spirits, seafood, chocolates, smallgoods, dairy, condiments and, of course, venison.
Senator Eric Abetz has organised this annual event for over 15 years and developed it into the go-to social event in Canberra, an unmatched promotional opportunity for Tasmanian producers. This year it was attended by over 500 international ambassadors, business and community leaders and parliamentarians.
“Hardly anyone in Canberra knew where Meander Valley is,” said Michal, who has a fervour for putting Mole Creek on the tourist and foodie map. He is impressed that our parliamentarians are doing so much to promote our area as a source of the finest quality organic produce.
Photo | Chris Crerar