If the thought of fish marinated in butter, ginger and citrus marmalade with a green chilli and macadamia toffee dressing is making your mouth water, you might want to get down to the Ginger Flower & Food Festival this weekend.
Spirit House head chef Tom Swapp will be cooking up this delicious meal in a demonstration on both Saturday and Sunday as part of a host of activities that will indulge the senses.
This will be the second time Mr Swapp has appeared at the festival and he is looking forward to joining the likes of Matt Golinski, Josh Smallwood, Cath Manuel, Paul Plant, Kim Taylor and Dr Tim Heard to showcase ginger at its best through cooking demonstrations and presentations as well as celebrate 75 years of Buderim Ginger.
Mr Swapp’s fish recipe is not something you would find on the Spirit House’s award-winning menu – it is one he has created just for the Ginger Festival.
“The dressing is very south-east Asian and the trick with cooking that style of food is getting the balance of hot, salty, sour and sweet just right,” he says.
Whipping up creative dishes that showcase fresh, local produce while transporting the palates of diners to exotic places like Thailand and Cambodia has become second nature for Mr Swapp, who joined Spirit House in 2014.
The 34-year-old has had a successful culinary career including stints at Brisbane’s Alchemy and Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Grill in Melbourne.
“The biggest challenge in my job is working hard to maintain the reputation that [Spirit House] already has,” he says.
“Being consistent is part of the reason why it continues to win awards.
“It is a family-owned business and there is a mentality with the staff that we are all family, so people enjoy working there, people enjoy coming to eat there and it really is a beautiful spot.”
Mr Swapp says designing recipes for chefs is very different to writing recipes for home cooks, which was a new process he went through in the lead-up to his first cooking demonstration at the Ginger Festival.
“I am so used to cooking for a full house of 100 to 120 people, and writing recipes for trained chefs to follow, so it was a whole new process to think about recipes that people at home would use to cook for two or four,” he says.
“I always get in trouble at home for cooking far too much. My partner says I can’t cook for less 10 even if it’s just for the two of us.
“So this process has given me a bit more insight and it’s a handy skill for me to have to be able to think about recipes from two different sides.”
Being surrounded by ginger every working day, Mr Swapp knows a thing or two about the versatility of the product and says it’s a zero-waste ingredient.
“We peel the ginger and cut it finely for salads, then can use the peel for soups and stocks so no ginger ever goes into the bin,” he says.
While food is a big component of the festival, it is also a magnet for gardeners, with an exquisite range of ornamental gingers and heliconias, which thrive in the Sunshine Coast’s sub-tropical conditions.
An array of more than 3000 plants will be available for sale to festival goers and live entertainment coupled with the popular rides means there will be plenty to enjoy at the 22nd annual festival.
The Ginger Flower & Food Festival is on January 19 to 21 at The Ginger Factory in Yandina. Entry to the park and gardens is free. For festival timetable, visit gingerfactory.com.au.