Fine Food 2016 – what a mammoth event! At the Melbourne Exhibition Centre from September 12 to 15, the country’s foodies and bakers converged at one of, if not the most relevant, industry trade shows for those in the baking biz.
With queues at the door every morning and more than 26,000 visitors in total turning up throughout the four days, Fine Food was a hotbed for swapping ideas, learning and innovation.
The Great Aussie Pie Comp and Live Bakery Stage were drawcards, with more entries than ever this year in the Great Aussie Pie Comp and some delicious items coming out of the Live Bakery oven. Crowd favourites were the chicken and green peppercorn party pies and thai chicken gourmet sausage rolls. EOI also had a lucky wheel promotion where dozens of contestants took home prizes.
Bake Skills was another must-see contest, with some of Australia’s best apprentices cementing their place as ones to watch in the near future, creating impressive ocean-themed displays made from bread, pastry and chocolate.
The Bulla Pastry Stage was a hive of baking activity and inspiration. In collaboration with some of the country’s top pastry chefs and chocolatiers – such as Jessica Pedemont, Darren Purchese and Liz Bawden – the stage was a tightly run, well-curated series of seminars and demonstrations that showcased not only products, but also skill. The crowd also was delighted to see Maggie Beer pop in to check out the Van Rooy machinery.
Not just a showcase of national talent, internationally acclaimed pastry chef and World Pastry Champion Emmanuele Forcone took to the stage to demonstrate the technique and talent that makes him an international champion, including demonstrating how to make sugar sculptures.
Crowds huddled around Kirsten Tibballs at the Bulla Family Dairy Stand where she demonstrated how to make modern éclairs, innovative lollipops, mousse cakes glazing and garnishing, and more. Down the hall, Pizza Revolution provided acrobatic shows and gave pizza-cooking demos in woodfire ovens.
This year was also the inaugural year for the Devondale Café Stage and Roasters Lane, a dedicated area for all things tea and coffee, which was excellent considering coffee is becoming and increasingly in-demand product for bakeries.
The Best New Bakery Product was announced at a cocktail function for exhibitors on Tuesday night, with Puratos taking out the award. Van Rooy machinery and Confoil were close runners up.
The MYOB Talking Food Stage drew in crowds eager to learn more about key issues confronting the baking industry. Baking Businesseditor Nichola Davies facilitated a fiery panel discussion with Brett Noy of Uncle Bob’s Bakery and Dean Tilden from Hunter TAFE about training issues in the baking industry.
Brett and Dean provided excellent representation for the topic of training in the baking industry, with Brett owning Uncle Bob’s Bakery, co-founding Southern Cross Baking Group and being heavily involved in the international competition circuit. Dean has been in the baking industry for 26 years, teaching at Hunter TAFE since 2001. He is currently captain of the Australian Baking Team.
Brett and Dean agreed the current training package is heavily flawed as it requires apprentices to have too little TAFE contact hours, and offers too many opportunities for unsupervised and unsatisfactory on-the-job training.
The panel ended on a positive note, with Brett and Dean urging stakeholders to put pressure on baking industry organisations to review the package to create a better learning environment for apprentices to encourage their passion.
Event director Minnie Constan said the international exhibitors are always a really exciting aspect of Fine Food, but equally exciting was the regional producers who matched them with their innovation, flavours and products.
“From healthy food trends such as matcha and kombucha, to some of Australia’s locals proving their hand at pizza-making and tea brewing with incredible results, the future of Australia’s food industry has never looked brighter,” she said.
Next year’s Fine Food Australia will be held in the newly built International Convention Centre Darling Harbour on September 11-14, 2017.