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Tasting Australia: a preview

This May, Tasting Australia returns to Adelaide for eight delicious days of collaborations between some of the world's most influential cooks and producers.

Following on from the 2014 festival's "Origins" theme, the 2016 crop of dinners, lunches, workshops, discussions and tastings aims to get a bit more personal; it's all about "Landscapes", showcasing the cultural microcosms underpinning produce and cuisine.

"It's about championing the people that foraged its culture and history," says creative co-director, chef Simon Bryant. "Our guests have assimilated their culture, their history and their traditions to their surrounds to produce the very best."

More than 30 local and international pioneers of the paddock-to-plate philosophy will join forces to create a series of "backyard" events and collaborations, including the highly anticipated "In the company of" series.

"I spend so much time on the collaborations that I feel like I'm a dating agent," says Bryant. "It's really important that people are like-minded and there's a cross-pollination of ideas."

Ethos and interest are Bryant's main matchmaking criteria when he's pairing up talent. Tasting Australia guests can look forward to an Agrarian Kitchen-style lunch menu from Tasmanian farmer (and GT regular) Rodney Dunn at Ngeringa Farm and a city-meets-country locavore dinner by screen stars Sean Connolly (Sean's Kitchen) and Paul West (River Cottage Australia).

"The process is really organic," says Bryant. "When I came up with the idea for Paul, I went to visit him on the NSW South Coast - that's a long way to go to ask someone to come to the festival. A few months later we went for dinner at Sean's and I introduced them - the conversation just kept evolving."

But the festival isn't just about courtship and wooing. On opening night, A Cheong Liew Retrospective is reuniting old friends, too, in a degustation prepared by seven former apprentices to the chef and festival ambassador.

Although Bryant is remaining tight-lipped about the Liew line-up, he says guests can expect chefs from each era that were most influenced by Liew's work - like Cape Lodge's Michael Elfwing and Tallwood's Matt Upson, perhaps. "A kitchen has to have harmony," says Bryant. "And when they click, it's such a testament to the industry."

Tasting Australia, 1-8 May, 2016. Tickets are on sale now.

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