Five Minutes With Tawnya Bahr

As director of Straight To The Source, Tawnya Bahr is leading the charge with connecting chefs with their ingredient source, mentoring primary and artisan producers and delivering regional chef tours. Alongside business partner Lucy Allon, Tawnya is passionate about providing a valuable resource and an experienced team that wakes up every day with the mission to facilitate knowledge sharing and support the food industry at every stage of the supply chain.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your food background:

I moved to Sydney from San Francisco 26 years ago. I entered the industry as an artisan producer making condiments and dips. I started a business called the Condiment Connoisseur and from there expanded my range, found a contract manufacturer and setup a distribution company. I built the business up, sold it and took myself off to culinary school. At that time, I also started offering my food consulting services to other producers wanting to navigate their way through the supply chain. I made a lot of mistakes and I’m very happy to mentor others to prevent them from making the same ones.

Tell us about Straight To The Source and how it got started:

Whilst I was running my consulting business, I felt this need to create a business that would offer a niche service to give chefs an opportunity to leave their kitchens and have an experience that connects them with the produce, the humans that grow their food and with their peers. Hence Straight To The Source was born. After a couple of years, I enrolled in the Masters of Gastronomic Tourism through Southern Cross University and Le Cordon Bleu and that’s where I met my business partner.

How has Straight To The Source changed since the pandemic started?

After 10+ years of running Straight To The Source regional food tours, we had many events under our belt and were widely known for our industry producer tours. The pandemic brought this to an abrupt halt of course, but it allowed us time to assess the opportunity to do things differently. We rebranded, expanded our services to include the consulting I’ve been doing and added more services to tap into my business partner Lucy Allon’s skillset as an award-winning restaurateur and experienced hospitality professional. We now have three key pillars to our business: our online producer directory which connects producers to industry and consumers; our tours, events and workshops; and our consultancy services working with a broad spectrum of primary and artisan producers, food industry organisations and hospitality businesses, including regional restaurants.

How can those in the food industry best support primary producers?

The food industry can best support primary producers by making sure they know where the ingredients the are buying come from and understand the value equation of what goes into getting that product to their kitchens. Also, to understand, support and manage the impacts of weather, distribution and other supply chain issues and respond in a way that supports the producers to ensure the ongoing viability of their business. This is at the core of what we do at Straight To the Source—connecting producers to the people who source, prep, cook and serve their products, and will continue to do so.

How do you see the food and hospitality industry changing in the future?

The food and hospitality industry has demonstrated incredible resilience and agility over the past 18 months of lockdown closures, however a huge problem the industry faces is a lack of skilled workers, which will have an impact on venues reopening. Skilled workers from overseas made up a huge part of the Australian hospitality workforce, so we need borders to open as soon as possible so skilled workers can return as soon as possible. In the meantime, venues may have to open with reduced opening hours, or restricted menus, to start with.

What are the biggest challenges facing both producers and chefs right now?

In Australian I think it’s instability. That’s what we all need to work out. How can we do our craft and put a bit more stability into our business models. For growers, I know many that are doing a great trade and others that have had to till their crops back into the soil and chefs that have lost an entire cool room of food. There are many challenges we’ve had to face and there’s more to come for sure. I’ve had to change my both personal and business mindset in order to continue to do the work I love.

Can you tell us a bit about the sausage roll project you’ve been consulting on?

I’ve been working closely with fifth generation farmer Fiona Aveyard of Outback Lamb on further developing and launching The Outback Lamb sausage rolls nationally for both retail and foodservice. Single origin lamb straight from the farm, mixed with fresh spices and then wrapped in pastry made by pastry chef and pâtissier, Christopher Thé. It’s a winner!

Any more exciting projects in the pipeline?

Seriously, there’s a lot, including the newly launched ChefBox program which shines a light on all innovative and new ingredients (it’s growing fast so if you’re a pastry chef or baker hop on board).

We have chef tours in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales for 2022 to announce, we will have the Source Kitchen at Fine Food 2022, introducing new online workshops, new collaborations, a Straight To The Source podcast and heaps more.

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