Sonia Fingleton is all about promoting fresh local produce. She is the driving force behind the Hastings Farmers Market and the Tastings of the Hastings annual food and wine event and the brainchild of the local area’s very own cookbook.
You’re the brainchild behind the Tastings of the Hastings cookbook. How did the idea come about?
In previous years, a terrific booklet was produced to pre-promote the Holiday Coast Tastings of the Hastings, listing all the vendors and the events. While it was a good production, it didn’t have a long life span. So I set about thinking of a way to better spend that money and increase the length of promotion and appeal it could buy for the event and its participants.
Everyone loves a good cookbook – and what better way to highlight the participating chefs and the produce of our region? A cookbook such as this makes a statement and sets a personality for our region, and I felt that was what we needed at this stage in the area’s culinary journey.
It was also a great way to add value to the event for the farmers, food producers and restaurants. The restaurants are integral in the process of expanding business opportunities for our local producers, and the book has forged new links between restaurants and producers that we will work to strengthen into the future.
> Why is it so special for the Hastings region to have its very own local cookbook?
Dining is the top single tourism activity in any destination anywhere in the world. People are discovering destinations with their taste buds.
Food and wine draw people to a destination, and give each individual destination colour, character and personality.
So I thought what better way to draw greater, widespread attention to our destination than with a beautifully produced cookbook.
Also, I believe that because of the efforts of many, throughout the past decade, the food and wine of our region is currently in a great place. As a region we can stand proud with the quality and variety of what we have to offer.
So, the cookbook salutes those restaurants and cafés that support the Tastings of the Hastings – and likewise our local farmers and food processors and the strong quorum of passionate food people who are working together to make our region prosper in this specialist arena.
> What kind of recipes feature in the book?
They are recipes you can prepare at home. Most are terrific in their simplicity and are designed to highlight the great local produce that has gone into them. There’s a good mixture – some from our leading chefs and others from food producers who are competent cooks.
Use of the fresh local produce also enhances the healthy aspects of the recipes.
They stand out on the pages, tempting you with the luscious freshness of the ingredients, subtle sauces, and the elegant simplicity of the presentation. In many there is an accompaniment of a local wine or beer.
> Tell us about the calibre of chefs who were involved in the cookbook?
One thing all the contributors share is a great passion for our region, its produce and its ongoing prosperity. We are blessed to live in a strong and lively community, where so many contribute to their own degree.
The chefs and cooks in the book are a sample of our greater community – those who support the Holiday Coast Credit Union Tastings of the Hastings and work among themselves and with other industry leaders.
Among them are some exceptionally talented chefs, mixed with some fine cooks, each giving the best they have to offer.
> How will this put the Hastings region on the map as a great food and wine destination?
Book orders are already coming in, and once printed the Tastings of the Hastings cookbook will be winging its way to all corners of the world.
Those who have seen the proofs are very complimentary about the style and presentation of the book. They are also extremely proud that our region has produced something of this calibre.
That pride will see the book being purchased as a corporate gift, a gift to family, a momento of our visit to our region, and as a unique promotional tool for corporate and community groups.
The calibre and distribution of the book is the key to its success in marketing our region and its food and wine scene. I think we’ve got it right.
> Why is it so important to buy local produce?
Gosh, where do I start?
1. Health. There is nothing better than fresh local produce brimming with vitamins and minerals that enhance our well being and health.
2. Supporting the local economy: through our local growers and producers. Ensuring our local industries remain strong and viable. Embracing the sense of community and the many benefits it brings to all.
3. Considering the environment. If I have to buy local for 10 years to get one semi trailer off the Pacific Highway, it is well worth it. Reducing our carbon footprint.
> How did your passion for local food come about?
I love good food. The artistry and skill of good food preparation and the countless hours of enjoyment it can inject into our lives.
My passion was nurtured while working as the PR Manager at the Regent of Sydney hotel, now the Four Seasons, and developing its version of Australian Cuisine in the 80s with head chef Serge Dansereau. He now owns and operates the Bather’s Pavilion at Balmoral in Sydney.
I was also lucky enough to co-ordinate media visits for some other great international chefs. These included Ken Hom, Anne Willan from La Varenne, Jeremiah Tower from Stars in LA, Alain Ducasse, and others either visiting the hotel for major food promotions or my accompanying them on national tours for the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year Awards.
Locally, my husband Grey and I owned and operated Lincoln Green Café in the Lincoln Greenery Garden Centre for four years, where we worked to always highlight fresh, local, seasonal produce in all our café and function menus – with great success.
It was great fun. But you know, through it all, simple always shone through as best. Simple flavours, simple presentation, fresh produce, and local passion. That’s what it is all about.
> What do the regular Farmers’ Markets offer?
There’s no better place to do a weekend shop. It’s a community market, a place to meet other locals, buy and try fresh local produce, buy freshly picked vegetables, fruits, flowers; enjoy a selection of hand made and grown in the Hastings products (meats, poultry, fish, oysters, berries, nuts, hand made chocolates).
It’s a yummy, fun experience that is supporting local business and bringing community together. They are great events every 2nd Sat, at the Maritime Museum in Port Macquarie, the 4th Saturday at Wauchope Showground, and when a fifth Saturday falls, at the Community Hall at Lake Cathie.
I encourage anyone to become a locavore – primarily consuming local product and following the markets for your regular supply. The markets are open from 8am to noon at each location.
Many of our smaller fruit and vegetable stores are also supporting local and neighbouring farmers. We live in a great food bowl.
A visit to the Hastings Famrers’ Markets will uncover a range of great salad and vegetable products, some well known and others a little more exotic.
It is a journey of flavour. A selection of local fruit and veg markets are also srongly supporting local producers and that’s great to see.
It’s a growing thing!
> How much does the cookbook cost, and where can our readers buy the book?
The book is only $10 (plus postage). It’s available from a selection of local restaurants, and the regular Hastings Farmers Markets in Port Macquarie (2nd Sat of the month- Wauchope (fourth Sat of the month) and – Lake Cathie (fifth Sat), – the Visitor Information Centres in Port Macquarie and Kew, or by emailing me at email@example.com or calling 6585 9324.
> Thank you Sonia.