Colin Fassnidge is the first celebrity chef to put up his hand to attend a celebratory showcase of local produce in the region this Spring.
But Fassnidge is not the only one eager to support the fire ravaged South Coast that didn't get a chance to even start recovering from a devastating summer before being further crippled by COVID-19 which kept visitors away over the traditionally busy Easter and school holiday period.
Like many leading Sydney chefs Fassnidge is a regular visitor to the region. He has attended everything from celebrity chef dinners to encourage up and coming commercial cookery, hospitality and event students at TAFE to the inaugural South Coast Food and Wine Festival last September.
Now he and some of Australia's highest profile chefs are wanting to help the region recover by promoting what it produces. And the man bringing them here for the second annual South Coast Food and Wine Festival is former Dolphin Watch Cruises general manager Sam Tooley and his wife Sonia.
"There are a couple of other really big names who are keen to be involved. They have said 'count us in because we have some really cool suppliers from the South Coast that stood by us when things were tough. And it is time for us to support our suppliers who have had a pretty difficult six months'."
Mr Tooley said with such an attitude it was not surprising those Sydney chefs were so successful.
Fassnidge said South Coast produce is so good many experienced chefs and suppliers he worked with when he first came to Australia are relocating to the region. He said many of his friends love the South Coast as much as he does and now run some very successful businesses in the region.
"I am very good friends with Matt Fleming who was my head chef many years ago. And John Evans runs South on Albany with Sonia (Greig) his wife. My old vegetable supplier Pumpkin Ed is also here. Everyone has moved down here. I come down to the South Coast quite a lot. I love it".
Fleming was an award winning head chef of The Establishment and Bistro Moncur in Sydney before moving to Nowra where he opened The Hub Community Cafe as a social venture to raise funds for activities in the local community. He has also been working with local producers to bring an international dining experience to the Shoalhaven and is helping to train the next generation of chefs at Nowra TAFE.
Mr Tooley said it was fantastic to have the support of such top line chefs for the annual event he is trying to grow for locals and visitors. His motivation is to showcase the region from Wollongong to the Victorian border.
"We have made some changes for this year's South Coast Food and Wine Festival. Some by choice and a couple that were forced upon us".
COVID-19 is the reason the event has been pushed back from September to October 16 and 17. But the change in venue to White Sands Park, Huskisson is a conscious decision to move it to a waterfront location.
"We think the lure of Husky and Jervis Bay is certainly strong enough to get people to come that little bit further down the coast," he said.
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Farmers, oyster growers, restaurants, vineyards and local producers will exhibit at the Jervis Bay location in October. 500 early bird tickets were sold for each of the three sessions as soon as White Sands Events knew it would at least be able to have that number onsite at any one time.
Now COVID-19 restrictions have eased further the remaining 2500 tickets for the Friday session as well as the two Saturday sessions will go on sale on Wednesday.
Based on the response for early bird tickets Mr Tooley expects them to sell quickly.
"Many of our exhibitors from last year have already decided to join us and we are also getting interest from new ones." he said.
"There will be roaming entertainment as well as entertainment on stage. We are investing in more entertainment and will be doing the popular masterclasses again. The atmosphere and vibe this year at White Sands Park are so important. We are planning to have two stages that will be going throughout the whole festival.
"We know what the rules are and we are going to make sure we provide a safe environment for people where they can come and enjoy the producers and try different food and drinks".
The 26 year old founders of Wollongong swimwear fashion label Hyams Beach Swim are using their international success to help promote other female entrepreneurs and business women in the region.
Natalie Croker and Amanda Bergin have launched Hyams 'A Day in the Life' series to feature inspirational women who originated from or presently reside on the South Coast or Illawarra. They have approached a number of women to send them a behind the scenes look into their daily lives.
Ms Croker said the aim of Hyams 'A Day in The Life' is to provide a platform for local women to help promote their business or personal brand.
She said it was also a chance for Hyams Beach Swim to provide a source of authentic entertainment and inspiration for its followers during uncertain times.
Ms Croker said 11 women have taken part in the series and there are many more in the pipeline.
Guests who have posted videos to the Hyams Beach Swim Instagram page include NRL commentator Alana Ferguson, MVMNT Agency founder Grace Garrick, Picnic by the Sea owner Nadia Thompson, Yours & Owls digital marketing manager Brookie Carter and GWS Giants AFLW rookie and NetFit Netball host Tay Davies.
Mr Croker said she and Ms Bergin were passionate about supporting South Coast and Illawarra businesses. "It has been exciting that in a time of uncertainty we have been able to collaborate with local women to bring a sense of inspiration to our social pages".
See more of the Hyams "A Day In The Life series at the Hyams Beach Swim Instagram page.
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