Trust Adelaide to position itself as the epicentre of food in Australia. Despite the proximity of several of Australia’s most famous wine-producing areas, back in 1997 the claim was a little cheeky. Even the convenor of the first Tasting Australia event, Ian Parmenter, lived in Perth.
It’s true, Adelaide’s Cheong Liew was making waves with what we then called ‘fusion’ food. And Maggie Beer did live in the Barossa Valley. Back in 1976, South Australia’s premier Don Dunstan had been the first politician to publish a cookbook and Adelaide was the location for the first Symposium of Australian Gastronomy in 1984. But most of the fine diners were still in Melbourne or Sydney.
It was a bold move to attract media attention. The event was run, as were the Food Media Awards, by Ian Parmenter’s Consuming Passions organisation. Naturally, leading food media personalities could not resist a glittering awards ceremony where they could congratulate each other in glamorous surroundings. And while they were there, they could discover the delights of Kangaroo Island marron and Barossa Valley sausage.
In 2014, Tasting Australia took a new direction under the control of the South Australian Government’s events arm. It now focuses on showcasing local restaurants and producers.
The event was originally based in Elder Park on the bank of the River Torrens, close to the Festival Centre where the Awards night was held. The free festival centre has since been moved to Victoria Square. Events, including special dinners, long-table lunches, tours and masterclasses are held across Adelaide and nearby regions.
In 2018, Adelaide’s claim as Australia’s food capital was enhanced when city restaurant Orana was named restaurant of the year in the Good Food Guide awards. Orana’s chef, Jock Zonfrillo, was for some years the Programming Director of the festival.
The 2019 Tasting Australia Town Square event, held over nine days in April, attracted around 60,000 people. In total, the festival included more than 90 ticketed and free events.