Community of Kindness – Eat Local Noosa

Image source: Contributed

Matt Golinski shares the passion that drives him with the speech he wishes he had of given at the recent Eat Local Noosa event.

I was recently asked to speak for 10 minutes about “Mental Health in the Hospitality Industry” at an Eat Local Noosa event, after the person who was going to be speaking about it had to pull out. It’s a relevant subject at present with everything the industry has been going through over the past 18 months.

In my head I had it all covered. I’d spoken about the topic in front of people plenty of times; I’d just talk about my own personal journey, overcoming adversity, strategies for coping with sadness, and the importance of eating well and exercising to maintain a strong mental state.

I’m not sure if it was the fact that I was standing in front of a large group of my colleagues that my brain was a bit scatty or because I was on my third 14-hour day in the kitchen; or that I was just a bit overconfident that I could speak with some authority on the subject without any structure or plan. Let’s just say, my head was wrong.

As I skulked off the stage after the longest 10 minutes of my life, having just delivered (if you could call it that) a speech that didn’t make much sense, I felt embarrassed and quite frankly a little depressed, and as I sat there red faced and wondering if there was a side door I could slip out of and never come back, it suddenly struck me (about 13 minutes too late) that I should have just talked about the one thing everyone in the room had in common – our love of food.

Here’s the speech I wish I’d given:

When I found out that Eat Local Noosa had chosen Peppers as the venue for this industry conference, and that 100 or so local producers, artisans, chefs, tourism specialists and restaurant managers would be attending and all staying for lunch once it concluded, I decided it would be a good opportunity to squeeze as much local produce into one menu as I could. After all, ‘local’ was the flavour of the day. I enjoy these challenges because it pushes me to think outside the square, putting together ingredients that just happen to be available at that one moment in time.

A few weeks before the event, I started contacting our producers to find out what they were likely to be picking just prior to today, and drafted a menu based on what would hopefully be available.

A few days ago, our producers started dropping off ingredients to the back door of the kitchen: bright red, juicy ripe strawberries from Goomboorian to make the sorbet; a rainbow of coloured cherry tomatoes from Doonan to go with the chicken saltimbocca, cassava, daikon and carambolas from Woolooga. Pumpkins, mango pulp, milk and cream from the Mary Valley, pastured free-range eggs with canary yellow yolks from Kybong. Trays of oyster mushrooms so fresh they looked like they were breathing. The capers arrived in the post from the Bunya Mountains just in time.

All the special little garnishes – the sunflower sprouts and petals, the baby basil, the tiny lemon balm, the pink and red dianthus flowers, were all picked a couple
of hours ago.

The eggplants I thought we were getting for the starter weren’t available from one grower, but no problem, her mum had some in her garden and she’d drop them to a friend’s place in Tewantin and I could drop in and pick them up on my way through.

Everyone in the kitchen spent an hour yesterday looking for the goat’s cheese which we were told had been delivered but hadn’t (just a communication problem with a producer but luckily we already had enough of their cheese on hand for this event), and the 16kg of swordfish which had been confirmed for delivery Thursday turned out to be 6kg of swordfish and 10kg of Red Throat Emperor fillets for some reason, so the other 10kg we needed was rushed to us this morning so we could quickly portion it in time for lunch.

Back in the kitchen right now there are five chefs running around, working as a team to have lunch ready for you all in about an hour.

Out the front waitstaff are busy polishing glasses, setting tables and getting everything perfectly in place. They’re all working towards one common goal – to make you all happy. That’s what hospitality is, giving your guests a chance to relax, to feel looked after and special, to experience something new and leave satisfied and happy.

The opportunity to be regarded fondly in someone’s ‘food memory’, having the chance to work with beautiful ingredients every day and have relationships with the people who grew them, being thrown curveballs and having to create solutions, working with likeminded creative people, I consider all of those things to be a privilege and the whole reason that after 30 years in this job I still enjoy doing it.

Our mental health, like our physical health is something we need to monitor and maintain, and passion is the tonic that nourishes and heals the minds of the whole food industry, from farmers to chefs, restaurant managers to distillers.

It’s passion that keeps us turning up to work each day despite imminent lockdowns and restrictions, and it’s the glue that holds us together as a community when things are tough.

And if you are struggling, just reach out.

I guarantee that your community will be there when you need them.”

A few days after the event I started receiving strange messages from people congratulating me on turning 49 and a quarter. Then I got sent a beautiful gelato cake and a handmade card.

A group of the attendees had decided to just perform this random act of kindness to thank me for the support I give all the local producers.

It’s a beautiful world.

Happy Spring!

About the Author /

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Matt Golinski is a highly regarded chef with a passion for simple, produce-driven cuisine based on seasonal, fresh local ingredients. He is an active member of the Slow Food movement, a champion of artisan producers and a generous mentor to keen young chefs. He is the Food and Culinary Tourism Ambassador for the Gympie region; Ambassador and Advisory Executive Chef for Peppers Noosa; and a festival favourite.

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