The Orange F.O.O.D. Week was initially held in April 1991 with a small number of visionary Orange producers and chefs and eight winemakers. It now includes 10 days of dinners, lunches, tastings, presentations and markets that showcase the food and wine of the Orange region, hosted by wineries and restaurants. There’s even the F.O.O.D. train, leaving Sydney Friday morning and returning Sunday evening.
The city of Orange is located in the Central West of New South Wales – the first area of white settlement west of the Blue Mountains. The main agricultural products are wheat and cattle but it also produces 96 per cent of the state’s Brussels sprouts. F.O.O.D. stands for Food of Orange District, representing the three local government areas of Orange, Blayney and Cabonne in the Central West.
Orange F.O.O.D. Week focuses on wineries and small producers. From just a few vineyards at the time of the first festival, the wine industry has expanded to more than 38 producers. The region has several fine dining restaurants and many other eating establishments. Local produce includes nuts, garlic, eggs, preserves, olive oil, apples, cider, venison and truffles. The first festival had only two events – a dinner by celebrity chef Phillip Searle and a Saturday local producers market known as F.O.O.D. Affair. There are now more than 90 events around the district.
The Orange F.O.O.D. Week claims to be the longest-running regional food and wine festival in Australia. Well, it isn’t. Port Lincoln’s Tunarama festival traces its origins back to 1962 but, to be fair, it’s more famous for its tuna tossing competition than for the seafood. The Barossa Vintage Festival goes back even further – to 1947 – but its original focus was wine rather than food. But the Taste Festival in Hobart, now known as Taste of Tasmania, certainly pipped the Orange event by two years.
Whether or not it was first, the festival was certainly not the last. Now regional towns and districts throughout Australia have their own festivals, from Apollo Bay to Tamworth, from Margaret River to Noosa.