You are on page 1of 31


Sense of Place
~ sources for courses ~

George Biron
Sunnybrae Restaurant Associates
Geelong Otway Tourism

Introduction 5
Report 7
Awards 9
Asian food stores 4
beer 4
bread 5
cheese 5
cider and perry 6
chocolate 6
eggs 6
fruit and nuts 6
honey 7
ice cream 7
meat 8
olive oils 9
preserves 40
retail outlets - general 40
salt 40
seafood 40
spices 4
vgetables 4
wholesalers 4
vinegar 4
wine 4
Practical workshops 46
Sources for courses 50
Developing a local network
Menu planning
Checklist for the wine list
Seafood supplies
The larder
Fruit and vegetables
Tourism questionnaire
Menu case studies 60

Weblinks 66

Reading list 7

A Good Hard Look at Ourselves (004) 7
Opposite page: Lobster pots
Some dream of long drives with the kids in the bush.
Of stumbling across a country pub offering rump grilled over real coals, a bottle of local red (perhaps with
a bit of age as the publican owns a piece of the vineyard) and some smelly cheese. Fresh garden vegies
Others may long for a country breakfast of oven-fresh bread and real eggs in a lodge overlooking a lake.
Perhaps some renegade tree-changed foodie has even supplied a Seville orange marmalade.
For the traveller who loves to taste, the whole day begins to hold a new promise.
This project is about the annual conference retreat. You know the one where, as catering organiser last
year, you rang the local Chinese take-away to smuggle in sustenance as the pesto prawns were well
past it.
Then an email arrives telling you that the catering company has changed and would like to know your
food preferences.
You reply, they reply. They have the pinot, yes the lamb is local, and yes the keynote speaker can have
This is about a coffee lounge. The Gaggia gleams, the barista delivers in spades as she tells you about
the new roaster she’s just invested in. You blink; turn off the highway. It’s still hours from Tulla.
This project is also for the cook. He is writing his menu overlooking the ocean, watching the ships in the
channel the great Vatel.
of practical workshops held at Sunnybrae with a small, diverse group of operators during the winter of
I have included a copy of the 004 Project called A Good Hard Look At Ourselves.
Many of the issues about produce in this report are linked to the opportunities outlined in that project.
sent out to members of Geelong Otway Tourism at the beginning of the project.
I am indebted to Roger Grant, who pointed out that this small response showed just how important it was
to proceed.
Thanks must go to all the volunteers who give so much of their time to allow visitors to enjoy the area.
vig, who has helped bring it to fruition.
I am indebted to Gail Thomas for help with the producers list. My hearty thanks go to Ian Barlow, Joy
Durston, Roslyn Grundy, and Tracy Jamieson for editing and production.
I would also like to acknowledge the generous contribution of wine by Wine Geelong.
Lea, I’m still waiting for the homework!
George Biron
Sunnybrae Restaurant Associates
October 2006
Class of 2006
left to right:
Felicity McKenzie - Athelstane - Queenscliff, Johnny Visser - Sticks & Grace Cafe - Newtown, George Biron - Sunnybrae
Restaurant Associates. Amy Cooper - Sticks & Grace Cafe - Newtown, Simon Yarham - Faces The Restaurant - Geelong,
Benjamin Robinson - Bellbrae Harvest - Bellbrae, Daniel Howell - Bellbrae Harvest - Bellbrae, Lea Priest - T-Spoon Eatery
- Belmont, Dean Duyvestyn - Deakin Management Centre - Waurn Ponds, Shaun Fahey - Deakin Management Centre - Waurn
Ponds, Rebecca Mutch - Gordon Institute of Tafe - Geelong.
Ross Ebbels absent
The Geelong Otway region can be divided into roughly four main
areas: the City of Greater Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula, the
Surfcoast, and the Colac-Otway hinterland.
This project aims to encourage the hospitality industry of the re-
gion to express the unique qualities of each area with the common
goal of developing a stronger regional presence within Victoria as
it builds a reputation as Australia’s premier gastronomic/viticultural
A Sense of Place recognises that each sub-region has quite dif-
ferent demographic and geographic characteristics and addresses
these differences with individual recommendations, held together by
a common theme.
The differences and variations within each sub-group in fact accen-
is that to succeed in providing a great tourism experience, one has
to recognise individuality.
The strategy asks questions and suggests some solutions to help
each operator express their own individual business within a region-
al context with a Sense of Place.
Each section includes a short questionnaire that can be used to
evaluate what changes may be needed to improve the operation of
each member.
These surveys are for private self-evaluation and also provide op-
portunities to begin a dialogue between producers and with other
A common thread within this project is that to express a region in
terms of its food and wine, the industry can look at itself through the
careful presentation of seasonal/regional produce and a sensitive
approach to the natural and man-made environment to provide the
visitor with unique competitive food and wine experiences.
This report recognises that wine is one of the most important of all
regional products and is assumed to be included in all future refer-
ences to regional produce.
Regional food producers can look to the wine industry as the most
highly developed tourism sector involved in the creation of a region-
al identity.
The wine industry, by virtue of its experience, size and existing infra-
structure, is also best positioned to bring together and capitalise on
the synergy that can be developed between food producers, food-
service providers and the wine community.
In no sector is the concept of regionally-produced seasonal products
better expressed than within the wine industry and as such it is also
the logical mentor for cooperative initiatives between the two sec-
a sense of place
Wine growers understand that an estate-grown and locally-proc-
essed wine has the best chance of expressing the true characteris-
tics of a region. In the wine industry, this is known as terroir.
A Sense of Place is another way of expressing terroir but the con-
cept is given a wider context, suggesting that any tourism business
that is able to express its relationship to its community or environ-
ment in a sustainable way can accentuate its distinctive characteris-
tics, adding to the competitive strengths of itself and the region.
dollar resort or indeed anything in between, each establishment has
the same opportunity to express its own sense of place.
This report does not rate investment above commitment; indeed,
sometimes the most modest operators have the biggest impact on
the development of a regional identity.
Regional produce has become the catch-cry of the hospitality in-
dustry worldwide. Visitors have an apparently insatiable appetite for
unique wine and food experiences.
One of the most common mistakes that operators and tourism
bodies make is to declare a commitment to regional produce as a
marketing slogan without truly having a base upon which to make
such claims.
Food and wine service are the most labour-intensive
aspects of the tourism experience. Together with a
reliance on perishable products, they offer the least
return on investment of any part of the industry. Food
and wine service is often seen as a necessary evil best
Paradoxically, food and wine also provide the most
personal and lasting impression of the hospitality of a
region and are key factors in deciding whether to return
to, or to encourage others to visit, a region. (From A
Good Hard Look at Ourselves, 2004)
One of the aims of this project is to nurture the desire to use region-
al produce and to connect like-minded producers and operators to
further the development of pride in a regional identity.
It is important to recognise that within the Geelong Otway Region
the development of specialist regional produce is just emerging.
However, we are blessed with rich pastoral land that supplies very
high quality primary produce to the whole country and for export.
In this area, primary products such as beef, lamb and milk can also
be seen as being regional: the challenge is to identify these prod-
ucts and put them back into their own modern regional context.
The farming community is arguably at the forefront of issues relating
to conservation and sustainable food production. Within this com-
munity there is a great deal of historical knowledge and much
serious work is undertaken by farmers to ensure that future genera-
tions are able to continue to enjoy the produce of the region.
The new wave of alternative specialist food producers and food
groups who see themselves as conservationists sometimes ignore
mainstream farmers and accuse them of being ecologically irre-
In fact, if these groups were given opportunities to talk to each other,
they would realise they share the same goals.
A shared dining table offers a good beginning for such talks to oc-
Today most farmers have become alienated from their market. Too
uct with no link to its origins. In the same way, cooks do not usually
know who has grown their produce. This divide can often be a seri-
ous hindrance to the successful marketing of regional produce.
This report suggests that if a farmer can understand and interact
directly with the user of his produce, a more successful marketing
environment can be developed.
With these strong primary products, combined with emerging spe-
cialist producers, the opportunity to express regionality is limited
only by the motivation and creativity of each individual operator and
his commitment to co-operative initiatives.
This report recognises that in this post-modern marketing environ-
ment, the myth of authenticity has been successfully exploited to a
point where the real origins of products are often so well concealed
that we often think of quite modern products as being traditional and
regional. Nörgen Vaaz, Baileys Irish Cream and Bombay Sapphire
Gin, for example, have few, if any, real links to the grand allusions
that their brands imply. A sense of place can be easily and cynically
exploited often without the sense of humour of a Phaic Than.
Supply and Demand
This report encourages the use of fresh seasonal products of a high
quality, sourced from as close as possible to the location in which
they are to be enjoyed.
all Victorian areas.
In a broader sense, it also encourages the use of regional Australian
products in preference to imported goods.
This is not a political position but one based on the premise that
successful and sustainable food and wine tourism, as opposed to
franchised attraction-based tourism, relies on a recognisable region-
al point of difference.
It is relatively easy to compile lists of producers but it is the con-
nection to the producers themselves and their specialist knowledge
Specialist produce differs from the mainstream in that these prod-
ucts are always in limited supply and are seasonal. This is their
differences that add the nuances needed to create a nucleus around
which a strong regional food and wine reputation can emerge.
ucts are too perishable and unusual for large commercial distribu-
tors. Again, this is an important advantage in creating a sense of
Mulberries, heritage apples, plums, black currants, Meyer and other
lemons, heritage tomatoes, old varieties of potatoes and many other
unusual crops are grown by enthusiastic gardeners.
By the nature of harvest, all gardeners have produce in excess. If
this produce can be directed to local restaurant kitchens, the com-
petitive edge of such places is hard to match.
Also, if conventional growers are exposed to heritage and other
specialised produce, it is likely that some of these more unusual
developed further into regional specialities.
Dobson’s of Acheron are leading producers of special varieties of
potato. Recently Geoff Dobson found an unusual potato variety
This variety had been grown locally for many generations. Geoff has
bred it up to commercial quantities and now it is available as Beech-
worth Beauty in Dobson’s range.
Service groups in rural communities could collect and distribute
to add to the experience of visitors. If small communities can be
involved, visitors can feel relaxed among the locals.
I will never forget on a visit to the South of France that plate of fresh
local pistachios casually used as a bar snack.
Larger businesses may dismiss these concepts as marginal or
inconsequential in terms of the “big picture” but, worldwide regional
specialities of all types have developed from the need to utilise the
excess of products.
the South-West of France, the same region that is famous for its foie
gras (goose liver).

To make a product really competitive there is always a need to de-
velop value-added markets for secondary produce. Specialist sau-
sages are always made in ham-making regions, and apricot brandy
is often found in regions where the fruit is abundant.
Sometimes these secondary products become the main speciality:
Calvados, Cognac and even Champagne can be seen in such a
Bundaberg Rum (utilising sugar), Vegemite (a brewery by-product)
and Four’n Twenty Pies (beef).
The development from small specialist producer to an established
regional product also brings with it the danger that, once a product
is established, local availability can be compromised due to a lack of
True regional products need to be made by more than one boutique
producer for production to attain a sustainable economy of scale.
This is also why regional branding using place names can hold back
the development of regional produce.
We can easily get used to using one supplier or wholesaler for
why all our menus look the same.
Wine lists are also often limited by the convenience offered by
large-scale distributors. The big challenge for the local wine industry
is to reconcile their traditional distributors with local needs and to
put aside personal differences for the convenient cooperative local
distribution of wine.
in the largest market: that of regional wines into the franchised pub
or hotel.
Negotiation into this market can only be done on a personal basis,
with winemakers talking to publicans.
There are many reasons how and why restaurants choose suppli-
It often takes a lateral approach to begin to free one’s establishment
from the mainstream feedlot mentality that pervades the industry.
The directory attached to this report concentrates on products made
and grown in the region. It also includes a carefully selected number
of the best producers and suppliers drawn from the whole of Vic-
toria. Some carefully chosen interstate suppliers are also included
to give depth and allow local businesses to see what is available in
other regions.
For example, the development of the PerigordtruffeinTasmania,
Western Australia and also in a limited way in the Yarra Valley has
within 4 hours of it being harvested.

The list shows how much diverse regional produce is available and
how fragmented the supply chain has become. But it also shows
that if a place really wants to be local/seasonal in the choice of the
produce it uses, it is indeed possible.
Come and Get It!
The most common feedback I have had during this project has
been: “Yes, but where can I get consistent, reliable supplies of spe-
It is the nurturing of the passion required to constantly pursue the
best produce that gives a committed operator an edge.
Planning, researching and networking with producers are an im-
portant part of establishing a regional wine and food enterprise. By
creating relationships with committed producers, local operators can
develop a considerable competitive advantage. Such modern hunt-
ing and gathering also provides a healthy balance to the routine of
running a hospitality enterprise.
Artichokes are one of the most desirable vegetables on the Mediter-
ranean menu. At Ceres we have a local supplier, Frank Battaglia,
graded, small quantities direct to cooks but has hardly any local
clients. In Sydney, celebrity chefs like Steve Manfredi go out of their
way to use them.
Many kilos of preserved artichokes imported from Europe are sold in
this district.
This type of contradiction is perhaps even more pronounced in the
wine industry. We have more than 45 different locally-grown and
produced wine labels within the region; all are of a more than just
acceptable quality but few establishments utilise more than a couple
of local wines on their lists.
This district will only be recognised as a wine-producing region
when local operators enthusiastically embrace the wine industry and
support it strongly.
There is often a reluctance to recognise that visitors want to experi-
ence wine and food close to its source. In the Yarra Valley and many
other regions, there is great pride taken in the promotion of local
wines. Think about the last time you were in Coonawarra, did you
Up the aisles
Coles supermarkets in Victoria have recently forced their fruit and
vegetable suppliers to change from individual packaging highlighting
the origin of the produce to standardised black plastic Coles crates.

regional identity of the grower. The Coles brand is empowered at
the cost of the grower.
The Victorian Farmers Federation are in discussions with Coles, as
growers are very angry.
In the United Kingdom, supermarket giant Tesco has just committed
ing of local produce in its stores. The plan is said to be part of a 0
point strategy to cut the food miles travelled by its products and to
make it easier for local suppliers to do business with Tesco. The pro-
posed in-store regional food counters with local food experts and a
regional website are also on the design tablet as part of the strategy.
Tesco is arguably the last of the big three supermarkets in the UK
to adopt an ethos for seasonal/local/organic produce. Waitrose has
for a long time built its image on using regional food and Sainsbury’s
leads the way with organic “boxes” containing eight seasonal organ-
ic products sold together.
Experienced local producers are, and have good reason to be, wary
of such approaches as Tesco and the other mega-marts still exer-
cise very strong price and packaging control over all their suppliers.
In Australia, similar schemes of direct pre-ordered boxes of regional
organic produce are in the hands of a few relatively small alternative
producers like Fernleigh Farms. This is a much more sustainable
model to follow.
Common Themes
Before we examine each region individually, there are many themes
that apply equally to all regions in the context of how better produce
can be sourced and then repositioned into a regional market.
Most cooks, winemakers and restaurateurs share a desire to dis-
pense genuine hospitality but often feel isolated from their peers.
The workshops attached to this project have already shown how
eager cooks and operators are to discuss their experiences. They
are often only too happy to share contacts.
One of the aims of this project is to create a series of forums on a
website where members can discuss issues of produce, availability,
recipes, and distributors.
The website would also enable producers to communicate directly
with end-users and help to connect the wine industry with its local
The web has dramatically changed the way in which business is
done. The change that mass acceptance of broadband has made
to web-based communication is very exciting. Any new web-based
project must use the most up-to-date channels to keep up interest in
their web presence.
Off the Radar
Regions where there is a well-developed network of like-minded
operators are conspicuous by their regional reputation and in the
success of the establishments that embrace this ethos. In Victoria,
such regions include:
• The Yarra Valley
• The Mornington Peninsula
• Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges
• Murray Valley
• King Valley
• Gippsland
• Grampians
• North-Eastern Victoria
• South-Western Victoria
All of these regions have developing networks of producers’ groups
and websites but few, if any, use the internet as an open-network
communication tool for the industry.
The web is seen purely as a marketing tool.
This ignores the spontaneous and immediate communication tool
that the web is suited to. It also ignores the way that web-based
marketing works. If a site is used heavily by a specialist industry
group the marketing value is recognised by webmasters and can
become an important portal to other providers, creating a valuable
marketing tool.
There are many examples of special-interest hospitality groups us-
ing web forums in creative ways to consolidate professional devel-
opment. is a prime example.
Locally, Geelong Wine has set the pace in creating an infrastructure
but in terms of other produce groups there is one large gap on the
map and on the web.
The Me and You
There is no limit to the number of ways a bill of fare or wine list can
be expressed. Yet most places opt for a system that began more
than 00 years ago in times when labour was inexpensive and
highly skilled and printing was quite costly and slow. That system is
the à la carte menu.
Computers have changed the way logistics and production occurs
in large manufacturing with concepts like “on time” manufacture and
delivery. In the same way, desktop publishing and other electronic
communication tools have provided the technology to let cooks
manage menus based on availability rather than being locked into
long-term menus.
This simple and inexpensive technology allows cooks who rate
availability and freshness above everything to manage demand and
waste in a way that an early printed à la carte menu never could.
But some things are fundamental.
The single most important aspect of an establishment’s bid for suc-
cess is its perceived value for money.
entrees, main courses and desserts. Most entrees are $5 to $0;
most main courses are $5 to $5 with about four side dishes priced
from $6 to $8. Most desserts are $0 to $5.
archaic model and rely on high-powered sales techniques to boost
bottom lines. Many marketing advisors concentrate on sales meth-
ods that do not sit comfortably with ideas of relaxed hospitality.
Overtly persuasive sales techniques can undoubtedly increase total
spend but by the time the credit card invoice arrives, we may have
forgotten how much we enjoyed those extras that our convivial
waiter allowed us to order. The all-important perception of value for
money will be lost.
It is much more effective to get the price right without the need to
‘upsell’ anything: to concentrate service skills into the effective com-
munication of the gastronomy/wine knowledge of the choices being
offered and create a price-point that removes the perception of cost
from the way the decision to return is made.
Innovative menu formats can deliver value by utilising individual
strengths and accommodating weaknesses. Some places have tal-
but isolated settings. Each will have a different set of requirements.
McDonald’s employs some of the most sophisticated marketing
strategies in the hospitality industry but how often have you ordered
A menu is in fact a contract between a diner and the restaurant. The
format of this contract is usually in place for quite some time; so
much consideration is needed before a commitment to a particular
style is made. (See Menu Case Studies)
The Wine List
The directory attached to this report shows what a diverse and rich
wine region the Geelong Otway district has become.
It would be possible to create a wine list that changed each month,
using two local wines from the most popular varieties, and still not
repeat a wine.
Wine writers that I have approached have commented that very few
places in the region emphasise the local wines. Wines by the glass
tend to come from the cheaper end of the list, in the apparent belief
that moderate drinkers are all on a budget.
The most interesting approach to the way wine by the glass has
been served was where the establishment had a policy of a certain
number of wines by the glass offered, say six altogether, and then
lishment which wines the clientele was really interested in; giving
good guidance to the development of the wine list.
Many visitors would like to try unfamiliar top-end wines by the glass
before committing to a bottle. Also while travelling many different
constraints apply to normal drinking patterns but many of our new
wine favourites are found close to the vines.
The current wine glut offers many opportunities for restaurateurs
and consumers but also poses some challenges for wine producers.
Good restaurants have traditionally based their reputations on the
quality of the house wines offered. Sadly, in recent times many es-
tablishments have begun offering cleanskins of very dubious quality
as their house wines.
Winemakers work hard to place their products in suitable places;
conversely, leading restaurants need to serve the best wines. Good
Such relationships are based on mutual respect and offer important
synergies that all establishments can learn to develop.
that he knows has been grown by his neighbour, a sommelier can
gain assurance in promoting wines he has seen being grown and
However, wine lists are often selected by managers who rate distri-
bution and convenience above quality and real value. Many do not
have the necessary experience to compile a strong wine list.
There are many opportunities for these places to connect with spe-
cialists who can help them to prepare a well-balanced locally- based
wine list. Independent wine consultants can also help to negotiate a
well balanced local list. This is the origin of the term negotiant.
At Sunnybrae, I used two young wine professionals to help us
source special wine lots in the local area. The cost of their services
was more than compensated by the savings and interesting wines
they brought to the business.
More casual places can also develop meaningful relationships with
local winemakers, working to enhance both parties’ endeavours. In
fact, it is in the lower to middle price range that the widest choice of
locally-made wine can be found.
The wholesale price range of locally-made wines between $ and
$4 holds the most value and easily offers good choices based on
quality for a price to match a larger company’s café-style offerings.
Over time, these local relationships will continue to provide market-
ing opportunities not possible with large wine companies from other
Local winemakers can use the dining room as a showcase for their
work and the restaurant can learn about the wine business, enhanc-
ing the skills of its staff as well as providing a product with a well-
known state of origin.
The current wine surplus means winemakers can offer some high
quality products at a reasonable price. But such deals require time
to negotiate and mutual respect. It is also wise to remember that the
current glut conditions will change.
There is also an opportunity for an existing wine retailer to special-
ise in local wine. The logical location for such an outlet would be the
Bellarine Peninsula or Geelong. There is a strong opportunity for a
small hotel to become such a showcase. Coupled with a good din-
ing room, the synergy would be hard to beat. The Customs House
in Geelong was leased to the winning tender with a wine focus in
mind. Building works have started but progress has been slow.
The wines listed in the appendix to this section could form the basis
of a good list with a strong regional content. (See wines lists etc)

City of Greater Geelong
The Geelong food and wine industry suffers from a paradoxical
bayside city with all the advantages of metropolitan living without the
Geelong is also said to have a “world-class” waterfront, and res-
taurants and wineries to rival anything in the state. But when this
is challenged by visitors and commentators, the defensive barriers
come up.
Geelong is so close to Melbourne that local establishments compete
directly with it.
The same is true of the Daylesford Macedon region, the Yarra Valley
and indeed all neighbouring regions. Yet, unlike Geelong, they are
becoming strong gastronomic destinations.
I believe the biggest handicap we have in Geelong is our inability
to accept a need for change. Little progress can be made if even
constructive criticism is considered close to traitorous.
All large regional centres, including Ballarat and Bendigo, face the
problem of losing their more ambitious regional operators to the big
Conversely, experienced industry professionals who wish to escape
big cities choose more rural settings than Geelong or Ballarat to ef-
fect their changes.
How this cycle can be broken can happen in unexpected ways. But
town planners, and local government that recognises these con-
straints, can help.
Melbourne has become such an extraordinary wine and food city
that to draw regular custom from it requires a very strong product.
The ring road also poses some serious questions.
But unless we know our competition, develop a strong product and
learn to use Geelong’s proximity to Melbourne to our advantage, we
will forever be telling ourselves as visitors are passing through what
a “smart move” Geelong is.
Back to the Market
Access to wholesale and large retail markets is extremely important
to both growers and consumers.
Growers’ Market were highlighted in my 004 report A Good Hard
Look at Ourselves but though the Bracks government has decided
that Epping will be the site for the new wholesale market, traders
are unwilling to move, threatening to buy the Footscray site or es-
tablish smaller distribution centres in a number of different locations.
The Leader of the Opposition, Ted Baillieu, has committed his party
to keeping the market where it is, if his party is elected.
Looking at the global development of large wholesale markets, the
picture is far from rosy. In large cities like London and Paris, big
open markets are becoming large warehousing distribution centres.
The Bracks government has acknowledged this and has made pro-
vision for a large amount of space for distribution and other whole-
sale activity at Epping.
Ironically, supermarket chains have taken an alternative course, get-
ting close to the source of produce and commissioning it before it is
even grown, completely bypassing the market system.
What this may mean to this region is that a wholesale distribution
centre may yet evolve around Avalon. If this is realised GOT can
work towards making it a centre for high-quality specialist produce,
realigning the district to the best opportunity for the distribution of
produce in both directions within the region.
As Avalon is an airport, it is likely that higher value product will be
moving in and out, giving the region a much more important asset
than a Direct Factory Outlet centre.
Geelong, meanwhile, lacks a general market but is within an hour’s
drive of Footscray Market. This extraordinary Asian enclave can
provide Geelong establishments with cutting-edge Asian produce
unavailable in Geelong, but more importantly, it can offer young
Geelong chefs with an easily accessible introduction to what is un-
deniably the future of modern Australian cooking.
Local suppliers need not be abandoned but Footscray provides the
opportunity for Geelong chefs to learn what to order from local sup-
pliers to bring back to Geelong as well as providing a spontaneous
inspiration for change.
Victoria Market is also less than an hour away from Geelong.
retail prices are often lower than wholesale in Geelong. Specialist
meats such as game and offal can usually only be purchased frozen
in Geelong unless pre-ordered in large quantities.
Because we are prepared to accept it.
Geelong, we cannot ignore what is happening in the rest of the state
and especially in Melbourne.
It’s not good enough to boast about our world-class facilities and
then offer to serve them frozen game.
Not all the responsibility for Geelong’s food and wine future rests on
the suppliers, hoteliers, retailers and restaurateurs. Town planning
issues play a major part in population growth and regional develop-
One of the strongest factors in the resurgence of Melbourne’s CBD
has been the return to inner-city living.
A close look at how this has been achieved in Melbourne provides
an insight into the way Geelong can become a more vibrant centre.
While high-rise apartments in a heritage landscape can be extreme-
ly intrusive, in Melbourne we can see relatively low-rise buildings
with heritage architectural character developed lightly to make an
urban landscape.
both young professionals and downsizing boomers into the city’s
CBD and creating the market needed to expand the food and wine
sector to a more viable and vibrant level.
The Western Wedge project has these concepts in mind but a wider
planning scheme throughout the CBD of Geelong is needed or that
precinct will unbalance the urban landscape and create real estate
inequalities that will further hold back development.
Such a mix could be exciting with pockets of urban living in various
appropriate styles, as opposed to one-dimensional development
strips. Think Fitzroy rather than New Quay.
In Geelong, hotels are the most successful venues for food and
A Good Hard Look at Ourselves highlighted the opportunities for the
“pub” sector. Those opportunities are even more evident today.
Since I wrote my report in 004, there has been considerable
growth in the hotel sector throughout Melbourne and regional Vic-
toria, with seven pubs having been awarded chefs’ hats in The Age
Good Food Guide and more than 0 featuring in the 007 edition.
Wine Dining
Winery restaurants in all districts still show a reluctance to serve
wines other than those produced by the estate. This policy assumes
that diners are visiting the restaurant because of its wine.
most loyal repeat visitor can begin to feel restricted by such a policy,
eventually visiting only when he wishes to drink or purchase that
winery’s product.
Having a wider wine list can create the same regular clientele that
a ‘‘free-range” restaurant has and foster an interest in other local
A balanced list in a winery restaurant can also give diners a sense
competitor’s bottles alongside his own.
I’d suggest his real competition is from a lot further away.
Many wineries feel the need to add value to the tasting room expe-
rience but a dining room is not always the most appropriate addition.
Richard Thomas, one of Australia’s most respected cheese makers
and consultants, has long advocated establishing cheese maturing
rooms at cellar-door outlets to enhance the winery experience.
Yarra Valley Cheese and Maturation Room is a simple and stylish
The maturing rooms do not rely on expensive refrigeration and
infrastructure. Instead, they are based on modern, technically stable
but simple systems that echo the natural caves and cellars used in
traditional cheese making areas.
Local cheese makers could form similar alliances not only with win-
eries but with food stores to add value to both parties.

Other opportunities for wineries to add value to the cellar-door ex-
perience lie with small artisan bakeries and delicatessens based on
regional specialities.
The Bellarine Peninsula
Undoubtedly the most successful sub-region covered by this report
is the Bellarine Peninsula.

and towns with loads of historical character. The Bellarine also has
a quick sea link to its sister on the Sorrento side and offers a wide
range of recreational activities.
Historically, the Bellarine has always has been at the forefront of
culinary tourism, its food and wine destinations at times leading
the state. And after a period of decline it is again showing clear
progress, with many new and reinvigorated projects emerging.
The opportunity to build on this resurgence is considerable.
Much can be learned from the Mornington Peninsula, which is
showing signs of reaching over-development in some sectors.
the Bellarine Peninsula offers the best starting point for many of the
initiatives suggested by this project.
What is lacking, not just on the Bellarine Peninsula but in the whole
district, is a noticeable and energetic regional food and wine group.
Bellarine seems the most likely location for such a group to be suc-
cessfully seeded.
Often regional food and wine tourism groups see their primary func-
tion as marketing bodies but one of the most important roles for an
industry group such as this is as a provider of staff development.
Good service often leaves a more lasting impression on visitors than
fessionalism that’s a cut above the rest of the region.
To maintain and develop this advantage a new food and wine body
could draw on the strength of its service sector to provide co-opera-
tive front-of-house service training.
The new group could actively attract primary producers, along with
representatives from other neighbouring regions, so that as the
group develops the infrastructure can be built upon by Geelong,
the Surf Coast and Colac Otway. Colac Otway has already started
to form such a group. This group has strong relationships with the
Great South Coast Food and Wine Group, which stretches all the
way to Portland.
Eventually the whole region could have a continuous network, allow-
ing visitors to easily navigate their palates to the best food and wine
While more locally-grown produce is available on the Bellarine Pe-
networks for restaurants to use it.
Just as the wine industry can initiate a general coming together of
food service, produce and wine in the district, the Bellarine is the
logical place to create an “incubator project” for a focus on produce,
beginning with a ‘Farmgate’ scheme, and followed by a food trail.
The systems needed to put such a scheme in place could then be
continued in the remaining areas.

The South West Coast Food and Wine Group is developing well and
has put this region under some pressure to complete the circuit.
Some of the recent legislation related to farm zone regulation could
restrict Victorian farmers in some areas from providing farmgate
sales unless all the processing for the items is done on-site. How-
ever, the planning minister Rob Hulls recently stated that the new
zones will have little effect on current practice.
Surfs Up
The coastal region is the busiest tourist destination in the district
covered by A Sense of Place.
The Surfcoast and Great Ocean Road are well served by a network
of distributors. There are daily deliveries of all manner of food and
wine products by specialised and general carriers. There is also
good access to local and farmers’ markets.
The new farmers’ markets at Aireys Inlet and Birregurra have been
embraced warmly by those communities and by visitors and have
both grown considerably. It seems a shame that they are on the
same days, creating a dilemma for some traders and visitors as to
which market to attend.
Places on the coast that have expressed a connection to seasonal-
ity and regional products have, like these markets, all performed
Overheads play a big part in the choice of produce used, and just as
come a target for discount food distribution. Some distributors have
put high premiums on specialty items brought into this district and
these margins of course are passed on to the consumer, making the
The old real-estate adage of position, position, position is rapidly
changing its meaning. Major intersections in cities once held the
strongest retail and service positions. Now these spots, often oc-
cupied by classic buildings that once housed large banks, insurance
companies and retail giants, are subdivided retail spaces and often
in rural cities some of these positions have fallen into a neglected
state, especially in the upper levels.
The coastal equivalents of these sites are prime central positions in
established shopping centres, often with good ocean views.
Along the Great Ocean Road, these positions are rapidly becoming
home to food and wine outlets, concepts and franchises with little
gastronomic connection to the location.
As with Geelong, along the coast it is in hotels or pubs that most
food and wine activity is generated. But unlike Geelong and other in-
land centres there are few new opportunities available in this sector
along the coast.

The new opportunities in position for food and wine tourism enter-
prises along the coast can be found in:
• Balconies and other spaces above central retail areas
• Sporting clubs
• Motel dining rooms
• Sites just outside the frontline shopping areas
• Bucolic rural havens.
Balconies offer good views at more reasonable leasing rates than at
street-level, often giving a surprising perspective to even well-known
places. Examples include Harry’s (Queenscliff), la bimba (Apollo
Bay), and The Deck (Lorne).
Sporting clubs often hold the very best natural positions. The An-
glesea Golf Club is a prime example. With its unequalled marsupial
membership, this could become the quintessential Australian Bistro.
The Golf Club in Lorne is another example of a sporting club in a top
spot undergoing a planned development. This place will need a very
considered food and beverage operation to realise the full potential
of its wonderful site.
Motel dining rooms are often not very well styled but offer talented
and passionate young food and wine professionals very good in-
frastructure and position to enter the hospitality industry without big
A kitsch ’80s motel interior will be gratefully accepted if fresh, sea-
sonal food is cooked with a little care and offered at a reasonable
price. These dining rooms are also ready for a simple but playful
makeover. Young reputations can be made in such places without
mortgaging the family home.
Many opportunities are available in this sector. Motel owners often
wish they could lease this part of the operation to a reliable operator.
Many large enterprises will feel that such entry-point businesses are
inconsequential but in the late ’70s these kinds of places provided
opportunities exist now.
Off The Eaten Track
Sites just removed from the hustle of the main tourist routes of-
fer some of the best opportunities for food and wine enthusiasts to
experience the district.
Areas slightly off the tourist track also offer communities, gardens
and farms supplying the necessary produce and people without
which progress could not be made.
Often these locations have preserved much of the natural environ-
ment while offering a leisurely perspective not possible in busy
We can look forward to the recent changes at Bellbrae Harvest with
much anticipation.
But not all food and wine visitors want peace and tranquillity. The
coast also has a strong sense of being a party place where young
and not-so-young visitors can enjoy the surf culture in all its festive
The Falls Festival has liberated Lorne from the dreaded New Year’s
Eve security scramble. Hotels are well equipped and the days of
dangerous behaviour along the coast are thankfully infrequent.
Schoolies Week is an obvious exception in some areas.
There is a strong desire among most visitors for a healthier way of
this market and often youthful cafes best express the spirit of the
Just as the sea-change phenomenon has grown among business
professionals, many young chefs and restaurateurs are also looking
for greener pastures outside the city to express their craft.
A model for young people entering the food and wine sector along
the Surfcoast could arise from a coming together of skills by groups
of young winemakers, cheese makers, bakers, gardeners, cooks
and coffee enthusiasts. Many are already heading for the Yarra Val-
ley, Macedon Ranges and Daylesford, mainly because the produce
and passion are already part of the scene in those areas.
I hear you thinking “He’s dreaming” but some of Melbourne’s busiest
enclaves have also developed in such ways.
The current style of the marketing of Melbourne is centred on its
Sense of Place. The art alleys and lanes of the city encapsulate
the city’s image of vibrant energy but it is also wise to observe that
as the art goes up the artists are being relocated to make room for
more apartments.
The coast and hinterland are well placed to attract this energy.
The ABC series Surfng the Menu played on the image of Australia
as a youthful vibrant coastal food destination. Young chefs just
need to make it happen. We all know the lifestyle here is superb but
cooks and restaurateurs also need a sense of community as well as
Reasonably-priced real estate, job stability, as well as a sensibility
for regional food are needed to attract the many young families in-
volved in food and wine who may be looking for a move. The Colac
Otway hinterland has many of these requirements.
This group of professionals is as important to the district as major
The Great Ocean Walk has the ability to attract a green approach in
food and wine that will marry well with the lodges that will inevitably
spring up along this wonderful attraction.
A hospitality training college attached to the Mantra Erskine House
development may redeem the rather one-dimensional way that site
has been developed by offering training to new staff, and keeping
existing staff in the district. Many will see it differently.
The biggest threat to the food and wine tourism market along the
Surfcoast, and indeed everywhere, is the kind of run-of-the-mill en-
terprise often run “under management” that pays no respect to its lo-
cation. Such places are multiplying very quickly along the Surfcoast.
Isit? Aussie? Ozzie?
Oil! Oil! Oil!
One of the newer food crops to have emerged all over Victoria in
recent years is olives. This district has many small- to medium-
sized olive groves just reaching full maturity. Tastings reveal that the
Unlike some more faddish foods, olives are a staple with an unde-
niable position in a diet that Australians all like to share. It seems
remarkable that it has taken us this long to realise that we can grow
them so well.
The local Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) industry all over Australia is
How the processing is done and how the oil is marketed are not
shown to provide.
Just as the local wine industry has had problems of collective mar-
completely clear.
This industry is evolving so quickly that many small olive growers
Many now realise that lower yields from greener pressings are not
One thing is certain though: Australian restaurants will never again
need to buy imported EVOO for reasons of price or quality, just as it
no longer makes sense to buy imported fetta cheese.
Just as with New World wines, our oils are making many European
producers sit up and take notice.
Internationally co-operative ventures have shown the way, but in
this district most growers would like to produce their own brands.
75ml bottles of EVOO on the shelves of food stores and local mar-
kets have been recognised to be not quite what the forecasts had
Suitable marketing alternatives have yet to emerge but it is be-
coming clear that some form of collective regional branding will be
needed for smaller producers.
At the moment small growers are at the mercy of larger producers
The regulation for labelling of olive oil is not as far advanced as it is
for wine and the practice of mixing oils from different sources brand-
ed as regional produce is also very short-sighted.
Winemakers and chefs have the skilled palates to identify good
olive oil producers may be the way a regional brand can emerge in
this district.
An EVOO category could be introduced to regional wine shows. Ex-
posing winemakers to olive oil producers to see to what may even-
tuate is an exciting prospect.
Good Hard Look at Ourselves and the opportunities for these inland
areas, outlined in that report, are still valid. Since that report was
presented in 004, another cheese made from unpasteurised milk
[Roquefort] has been allowed to be imported. The opportunities in
dairy processing are still very strong in the Colac Otway shire.
The comments in that report about dry aged beef have become in-
creasingly relevant in the past two years as more and more restau-
rants are highlighting this type of product. Dry-aged grass-fed beef
is becoming the new Wagyu.
Are We There Yet?
members of Geelong Otway will decide what is relevant to their own
The loudest message coming from participants in the practical
classes that formed part of this project was their desire to connect
with other operators facing similar challenges.
Each of the members and associates of Geelong Otway Tourism
also demonstrated that the sharing of experiences helped them
considerably to understand their own situations. The feedback also
showed how little time was available for strategic planning and de-
Each member of the group had a genuine desire to improve the
quality of the produce they were using and had the same perceived
problems of availability and suitable chains of supply.
The group was pleasantly surprised by the range of wines available
and made locally.
Three of the ten participants began to make major changes to their
way of doing business during the course. Time will tell how they and
the others have progressed.
During the past couple of days, the editing and the checking of the
contact lists attached to this document have shown how fast the
industry is changing. The lists will have inadvertently missed impor-
tant suppliers and some mistakes of contact details will inevitably
happen. As such, the need for an interactive website to keep up to
date is very important.
Geelong Otway has shown great wisdom in not restricting the
producer and other directories to members only. It also seems to
be generally agreed that Bomber Thompson deserves another year
with the Cats.
All comments are most welcome.
George Biron
Sunnybrae Restaurant Associates

No tourism project is complete without a set of awards.
These are light-hearted, offer no big media contracts, but are very carefully considered.
So here they are.
Sensible Placemat Awards - or MATTIES
They are given to those that best express
A Sense of Place

Irrewarra Soughdough Cafe
Café Go
V and R
Pettavel Winery and Restaurant
Corio Bay Roadhouse
Portarlington Mussel Industry
Scotchman’s Hill Group
Lorne Greens
Swing Bridge Café Lorne
A La Grecque
Mark’s Restaurant
Otway Pork
Apollo Bay Fisherman’s Co-op
Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant
Farm Foods
And the awards go to ~

The complete package.
Producer of iconic local specialities sold wholesale and also retail.
With its own café that makes available many other local specialities including wine.
A regional product grown with care that has succeeded in the general marketplace,
bringing considerable attention to emerging produce of the district.
like a glove into its local neighbourhood.
For consistently making great wine
For helping to put the place on the wine map
For generously teaching us all so much about wine.
Who spends all her time promoting the best food and wine in the region.