Photo courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald. Taken by Edwina Pickles.
As mentioned in my previous post, uber-foodie Joanna Savill is Festival Director of the Sydney International Food Festival. Joanna kindly allowed me to pester her with a few questions about this year’s SIFF.
CH: Hi Joanna! We had a great time at the Showcase. Can I start by asking how different is the Festival this year under your direction?
Essentially this is the very first Sydney International Food Festival as it replaces an event called Good Food Month. So it’s new. Having said that, Good Food Month favourite events have continued such as Let’s Do Lunch and Hats Off (set menus in leading restaurants) plus the huger-than-ever Night Noodle Markets. But what we’ve done is broaden the focus to include a strong international visitor component, particularly with the World Chef Showcase (brand new) and also extend into Greater Sydney with community-based festivals and other events. The other big thing is a focus on food issues, with talks and forums on sustainability, food security, GM and more.
CH:Why did you decide to focus the World Chef Showcase around Asia?
We are notionally part of Asia here in Sydney and of course we have a large population of residents born in China, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Phillipines, Japan and other countries in the Asian region. We love street food and hawker style fare but we don’t really know as much about the “higher” cuisine styles represented by say, kaiseki in Japan or the kind of regional Chinese food demonstrated by chef Yu Bo at the Showcase (he’s from Chengdu in Sichuan). And Asian influences are so much part of modern Australian cookery and part of a European trend, particularly in France and Spain. So I thought it would be really interesting and exciting to look more closely at some major players from the Asian region and open up the discussion to European and US chefs who also engage with Asian flavours, ingredients and techniques.
CH: How has the Sydney food scene changed over the last few years and what role do you see the SIFF playing in the industry?
Sydney food has definitely come of age, much as we like to niggle about cookie-cutter menus and other failings. But we have a great chef fraternity and a certain maturity of approach now as well. I think that SIFF can bring food people together – from chefs to producers to business owners to serious and not-so-serious food lovers. And also focus on where we’ve come from and where we’re heading.
CH: So far to date, what has been the best part of running this year’s Festival?
It’s been one big high! Having such a wonderful influx of international visitors was amazing, such a buzz and so stimulating for everyone. Then this weekend I hosted the founder of Slow Food at the Sydney Opera House, putting concerns about the future of our food on the main stage. Another massive high point. I would be lying too if I didn’t say that attending the Showcase dinners – where guest chefs worked with local chefs – was extraordinary… and yummy!
CH: Thanks Joanna! Now, this has nothing to do with the Festival, but if you had to curate your own last supper, what would you eat?
I would want to eat really simple things. The best tomatoes with Australian pink salt, the best olive oil, the best bread, cheese, chocolate and a beautiful glass of wine.