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Hands-on culinary experiences for groups
From harvesting honey in Tasmania to hunting for mud crabs in Queensland, these hands-on foodie experiences will give groups an authentic taste of Australia’s extraordinary fresh produce.
In Tropical North Queensland, groups can experience the thrill of hunting for mud crabs with Walkabout Cultural Adventures, which was established in 2010 by local Kuku Yalanji man Juan Walker from the Daintree area. Based in the Port Douglas region north of Cairns, up to 22 guests are taken on a guided rainforest and coastal walk hosted by an experienced Kuku Yalanji guide. Guests can try their hand at foraging for pipis (edible saltwater clams), mussels and beach almonds whilst learning about Aboriginal bush foods and medicines. The guide then takes the group into the mangroves and along the mudflats where they can try spearing a mud crab - or even a fish. The catch is then cooked over an open fire on the beach – or in a wok – in the form of Juan’s special chilli mud crab recipe.
In the heart of Sydney, groups can put their seafood cooking skills to the test at the famous Sydney Fish Market overlooking Blackwattle Bay. Private groups of up to 40 guests start by mingling over seafood canapés and drinks, followed by a live cooking demonstration in the Sydney Seafood School’s tiered theatrette. They’ll then work in pairs at the fully equipped cooking islands to cook a gourmet seafood dish – think Singapore chilli crab or Spanish paella – before heading to the private dining room to enjoy their culinary creations with matched wines. Returning in early 2022, these cooking classes are an excellent option for an incentive program in Sydney’s city centre, and guests even get to take home a branded Sydney Seafood School apron as a memento.
Groups staying at Saffire Freycinet on Tasmania's east coast will be treated to a delicious array of culinary experiences, from learning to shuck fresh oysters to feasting on home-grown produce at this Luxury Lodge of Australia's lauded in-house restaurant, Palate. One foodie activity that will generate a buzz with guests is the Beekeeping Experience, where groups of up to eight guests at a time don an apiarist suit and venture into a private apiary, overlooking The Hazards mountain range. With the guidance of Saffire’s horticulturalist, Rob ‘The Bee Man’ Barker, guests extract fresh honeycomb as they witness thousands of Tasmanian bees at work. The wild honey stars on the daily-changing menu at Palate, which features 80 per cent Tasmanian produce.
Hailed by Australian Gourmet Traveller as a “success story of regional dining", the Lake House Daylesford is the perfect gourmet retreat for groups. Boasting a two chef-hatted restaurant and its own cooking school, this Luxury Lodge of Australia regularly runs masterclasses with top Australian chefs as well as its own chefs and local suppliers. Nearby sister property Dairy Flat Farm runs immersive sourdough classes, which operate as an extension of the Lake House Cooking School program. Groups of up to 10 guests join renowned baker Michael James in the new state-of-the-art, semi-underground bakehouse, which has been built with the goal of supporting small local grain growers and millers. Guests experiment with slow-fermented sourdough, making baguettes, danishes and doughnuts. Paired with a tour of the olive grove, vegetable gardens and orchards, which supply fresh produce to the Lake House kitchen, this exclusive experience is a delicious addition to an incentive program in regional Victoria.
For groups seeking a foodie experience in the Northern Territory’s top end, Wildman Fishing Tours can arrange an exhilarating day on the water for up to 30 people. After having a crack at landing a prized barramundi, guests watch as the professional onboard chef demonstrates how to fillet a freshly caught ‘barra’ which is then served up ceviche-style on board. Based on the group’s preferences and experience, the charter can operate out of various rivers and billabongs in the Darwin region – or they can take guests to Barramundi Adventures; a land-based barramundi fishing farm in nearby Berry Springs. They’ll even arrange helicopter transfers to the fishing location and back to Darwin, where guests can freshen up and head to Hanuman Restaurant to watch Australian chef Jimmy Shu fire up the grill and serve the group’s catch as part of a five-course seafood banquet.
Western Australia’s Rottnest Island may be known for its friendly quokkas, but it’s the island’s plentiful seafood that will pique the interest of foodie fanatics. Groups visiting this small island off the coast of Perth can experience the thrill of catching a Western rock lobster – known locally as a crayfish – as part of Rottnest Cruises’ Luxe Island Seafood Cruise. If they’re game, guests are offered the chance to haul in a cray pot containing live crayfish, to be cooked up on board as part of a seven-course degustation menu prepared by the boat’s private chef. This indulgent experience suits groups of up to 30 guests and includes the option to swim or snorkel in the crystal-clear waters, before a seated white tablecloth lunch paired with premium West Australian wines and craft beers.
Australia’s capital of Canberra is known for its cool climate, which is ideal for growing prized Australian black truffles. These conditions offer the rare advantage of being able to operate a commercial truffle farm just 15 minutes from the city, which makes a trip to The Truffle Farm an easy excursion for groups visiting Canberra for a business event. Specialising in professionally run truffle hunts, the experience sees guests stroll through the oak and hazelnut trees alongside the resident truffle hunting dog. Guests get their hands dirty by helping to dig up the truffles, then they’ll gather to feast on an exciting array of decadent truffle-themed dishes – think abalone with truffle, wagyu steak with truffle butter, and even truffle panna cotta for dessert – paired with matching local wines. The Truffle Farm can accommodate groups of up to 200 guests for private truffle hunts, which run during truffle season from May to September.
A trip to South Australia’s Barossa Valley near Adelaide wouldn’t be complete without a visit to culinary icon Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. With a passion for food running in the family, Maggie and her daughter Elli opened The Farm Eatery and Experience Centre in 2018 – a modern eatery with a purpose-built experience centre and cooking school. Groups of up to 12 guests can enjoy a hands-on cooking class in the architecturally designed space which boasts 12 Miele equipped kitchen stations. Guided by resident chef Tim Bourke, formerly of Southern Ocean Lodge, groups can learn how to cook the perfect Sunday roast, make pizza or pasta from scratch, or even learn how to make nut milk or vegan cheese. Guests can then settle in for a private dining experience featuring The Eatery’s ever-changing ‘Feed Me’ menu, which celebrates the fabulous fresh produce of the Barossa Valley.
Published: 12 November 2021