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Zoomer travel editor Vivian Vassos with chef Mark McNamara

Tasty travels. Here, an afternoon with chef Mark McNamara in Barossa Valley, South Australia

 

A couple hours drive outside of Adelaide, South Australia, is the Barossa Valley, a pocket of wine provenance that pretty much corners the market on some of the best Shiraz bottled, not just in Aus, but the world. In the New World red wine category, it gives California a run for its money, with a growing season that’s as long as it is varied. Grapes love the earth here, and some of the vines have been here longer than those in France. Yes, France.

An oenophile explanation: in the mid-1800s, some of the important wine regions of the European nation suffered blight. The vines succumbed to disease, and ages-old plants were gone. Fortunately, a few had been transported to Australia – you can also find some of these old-timers in Canada’s Okanagan Valley – and the rest, well, is still history in the making.

The English gentry settled in the Barossa Valley in the late 1830s, and then hired Germans, who came to work the land – and work magic in winemaking, traditions that they had brought with them from the old country. But what’s old in the winemaking industry continues to be new, too. We thirst for innovation, yet yearn for tradition, particularly when it comes to consistency in the taste, the mouth feel, the tingle on the palette when imbibing in our favourite quaff.

Food was a natural segue into the new. Chefs began to make the move here in the latter half of the 20th century, citing the longer growing season, the close community, the ability to know their suppliers, their farmers, and their neighbours, and a culinary destination of delicious proportions was born. Jetsetters soon followed, and the enthusiasm for culinary travel is now mainstream, with many tour companies’ itineraries built around food and wine experiences.

This global hunger eating and drinking with the locals makes the Barossa Valley a bucket-list foodie haven to the max. Its close proximity to bustling Adelaide doesn’t hurt either, with the city being voted by the guidebook experts at Lonely Planet as a top-10 city to visit in 2014, for its burgeoning food, arts and music scenes – and as a gateway city to wine country.

At The Louise, a boutique resort in the valley known for its spacious rooms – there are only 15 suites on property, some with outdoor showers – but, perhaps more importantly, it’s having not just one, but two lauded chefs at its helm in its first decade in business (the resort opened in 2005). Mark McNamara, the proprietor of the cheekily titled cooking school, Food Luddite, was The Louise’s first chef. He established the resort’s cuisine ethics, with local, artisanal and old-fashioned simplicity as his core ingredients, a signature with which he still infuses in his cooking at the school (www.foodluddite.com).

Click through for a behind the scenes photos and recipes, of course, of an afternoon of cooking with Chef McNamara at Food Luddite Kitchen Studio, in the Barossa Valley, South Australia.

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