27 Years of F.O.O.D
Australia’s Longest Running Food Festival
History of F.O.O.D
The Orange F.O.O.D Week (Food of Orange District) festival is Australia’s longest running regional food festival and has been acclaimed as one of Australia’s top ten food festivals . It’s one of the Orange region’s most loved events, appealing to both residents and visitors alike, and celebrates a significant milestone in 2016 marking the event’s 25th anniversary year.
Starting from humble beginnings in 1991, the F.O.O.D Week Association was established by a group of passionate and committed local foodies as a voluntary organisation aimed at celebrating the local producers and produce of the region. The objective of the F.O.O.D Week Association since inception has always been to promote the diverse and excellent regional produce from the district across three local government areas – Orange, Blayney and Cabonne. Its prime function is to coordinate and run F.O.O.D Week – a gourmet festival showcasing the region’s food and wine, food producers, wineries, restaurants, chefs, caterers and cooks.
As part of Orange F.O.O.D Week, the Association stages a number of major events which are designed to attract visitors to the region and promote the use of local produce. Orange F.O.O.D Week, held annually in April, is now recognised by Destination NSW as one of the flagship events of the state and has evolved to become a gourmet festival of national standing.
The very first edition of Orange F.O.O.D Week in 1991 was held over a weekend, and comprised of only two signature events – a Friday evening dinner for 120 guests starring a guest celebrity chef from Sydney, and a Saturday local producers market known as F.O.O.D Affair. At the time, there were only a few vineyards in Orange – Bloodwood and Canobolas Smith Wines – and the fine dining restaurant scene was literally non-existent.
Philip Searle was the inaugural celebrity guest chef of Orange F.O.O.D Week, arriving from the world of fine dining at the award-winning Oasis Seros in Sydney (Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant of the Year in 1989).
Culinary scene luminaries such as Tony Bilson, Peter Doyle, Luke Mangan and Steven Manfredi also made an appearance during the early years of Orange F.O.O.D Week at the apparently ‘legendary’ Friday dinner events. These were held in increasingly fanciful locations, starting in the local Orange Civic Theatre function room and graduating to more fanciful locations such as a marquee on the rooftop of a carpark and a hangar at the regional airport.
The other main event during the fledgling years of the festival was the F.O.O.D Affair local producers market. This was held in the grassy area behind Orange library, and combined stallholders with cooking demonstrations from talented locals such as Kate Bracks (who went on to win the third series of Masterchef Australia). Other local cooks, chefs and caterers (such as a young Simonn Hawke, now Owner and Chef of local hatted restaurant, Lolli Redini) may have also gained the inspiration to make their first foray into fine dining through these grassroots events.
By the early 2000s, Orange F.O.O.D Week had expanded across seven days to comprise around 40 events – reflecting the phenomenal growth experienced in the local food and wine industry. Today it has expanded to reflect the phenomenal growth across the region’s blossoming food, wine, art and tourism industries.
The Orange region now boasts 38 vineyards, 42 cafes and several fine-dining establishments, including the hatted Lolli Redini (Chef Simonn Hawke), Tonic (Chef Tony Worland) and Racine (Chef Shaun Arantz) restaurants. In the 21st century, Orange F.O.O.D Week is a ten day event with six signature festival events, complemented by over 90 satellite events hosted at local restaurants, cafes, cellar doors and more.