The first Symposium of Australian Gastronomy was held in Adelaide, convened by Michael Symons, Gay Bilson and Graham Pont. It was attended by the premier Don Dunstan, food historian Barbara Santich and other food luminaries. Sub-titled The Upstart Cuisine, the symposium took an academic approach to the topic, but is generally agreed to have done “nothing but good for Australian food and cooking” (Stephen Downes: Advanced Australian Fare).
The Symposium was inspired by the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, which has been held every year since 1983. The Oxford symposium itself was inspired by three seminars on science and cookery arranged in 1979 by Alan Davidson, who went on to edit the Oxford Companion to Food, published in 1999. Proceedings of the Australian symposia are available from the National Library of Australia.
The Symposium of Australian Gastronomy is held every 18 months to two years and is attended by Australian and international academics, educators, food industry and food media people. Venues vary each time and one year it was even held in Wellington, New Zealand. It is run by volunteers and has a different theme each year. Themes have included: In Holiday Mode; The Edible City: ideas for urban gastronomy; Food, Fears, Fads and Fancy; Preservation or Change; Beyond the Supermarket: learning to overcome gastronomic poverty; and many more.
The program generally stretches over a long weekend and includes presentations from academics, writers, chefs, producers and industry figures; panel discussions; lunches; and a signature banquet. In 1993, diners at the banquet were famously confronted by a tripe tablecloth created by Gay Bilson.