Long Table Lunch at Land & Lobster Festival

Mitsui E&P Australia’s predecessor AWE sponsored the Long Table Lunch at the first ever Land and Lobster Festival, held in Dongara in April 2017.  The event was an initiative of the Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Dongara subcommittee.

The event celebrates the ‘paddock to plate’ concept, presenting world-class food grown and produced in the Shire of Irwin.

Locally caught crayfish, locally farmed barramundi and locally grown lamb and beef were all served at the lunch, along with local melons and goat’s cheese.

Geraldton chef Steve Dalgleish created the menu, which was described as ‘a gourmet food lover’s delight’.

Glen Whistler-Carr, CEO of the Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MWCCI) says it was a phenomenal event.

“It was great to give exposure to local food businesses,” he says. “You might live locally but you don’t realise there’s feedlot lamb being grown 20 minutes out of town.”

Alannah MacTiernan and subcommittee members at Long Table Lunch, Land & Lobster Festival, Dongara Western Australia
Sally O’Brien donated two lambs to the lunch. She says the chef did a great job with it, especially considering the rudimentary cooking facilities he was working with.

“The chef was basically cooking in the street. He slow roasted the lamb and it was beautiful,” she says. “That was a relief for me. I was one of the guests at the lunch and I found it quite nerve-racking to be sitting with 150 paying guests who all knew it was my produce on the plate!”

Sally and her family, who have a Mitsui E&P Australia (MEPAU) appraisal well on their farm, normally supply finished lambs to a private abattoir in Bunbury, who have a contract to supply Woolworths.

Sally says, “If you’ve eaten lamb from Woolworths there’s a good chance it came from our farm.”

As a result of the lunch, Sally has been approached by two local restaurants to supply lamb directly, however she’s still working on the logistics.

Sally O'Brien and Dixie the doggo
“We usually send off four to six hundred lambs at a time. Our last job is to put them on the truck. We really like the idea of the ‘paddock to plate’ concept, and it’s highly attractive for local restaurants to serve lamb that has travelled less than twenty kilometres, but there are a few things to work out. Small batches of commercially slaughtered lamb for the local market is a whole different story to truckloads of lamb headed for Woolworths.

“We couldn’t slaughter the lambs ourselves because we’re not licenced. We’d have to get them slaughtered at an abattoir in Greenough. Then we’d need to figure out whether the restaurants could deal with whole carcasses, or if we’d have to send them to a butcher first. We’re not sure yet if the economics will work out.”

Sheep on Sally O'Brien's farm

Brad Kupsch, of Tara Beef, donated two briskets to the lunch. Although Brad has been supplying beef to locals for some time, the Long Table Lunch was the first time his product has been promoted in such a public way.

He says, “I was busy seeding so I didn’t get to eat it, but I was told it was very good. The chef slow cooked and smoked it.”

Brad leases the farm owned by MEPAU and supplies beef direct to consumers on a seasonal basis. His beef is also a permanent inclusion on the menu at Southerlys Tavern in Dongara.

Brad says, “We strive to be the best. Quality is our absolute top paramount goal. As a ‘paddock to plate’ business we give the customers exactly what they want. For example, if a customer has five people in their family, we’ll prepare packages of five steaks. We also ask people to specify how they want each cut treated.

“The whole idea is to get people to tell us exactly how they want their meat processed and cut up. If they’re not sure, there’s a ‘Butcher’s Choice’ option.”

Brad Kupsch at Southerlys, Dongara
Glen Whistler-Carr says there are some interesting stories surrounding local producers such as the Morawa barramundi grower.

David Coaker was draining salt-affected land by digging deep open drains to lower the water table. After pumping the saline water into evaporation ponds he introduced barramundi, but the ponds became fouled up with waste.

Mr Coaker went on to build a recirculating aquaculture system which uses the saline water. The setup allows him to grow 5g barramundi fingerlings into adults weighing up to 1.2kg.

A big advantage of the barramundi enterprise is that it’s not dependent on rain.

“He solved a problem and created an industry at the same time,” says Glen Whistler-Carr.

The lunch was attended by 150 people including the Minister for Regional Development The Honourable Alannah MacTiernan, MLC and several other government officials.

AWE’s Sponsorship helped to stage the lunch.

Glen Whistler-Carr says, “MEPAU is a very good supporter of local businesses and cultural activities and organisations. They have embraced the community they operate within through support and sponsorship. They’re big on creating transparent awareness of their operations. They’re a great supporter of the MWCCI.

“MEPAU’s sponsorship allows events like the Long Table Lunch to actually happen.”

Alannah MacTiernan at Long Table Lunch, Land & Lobster Festival, Dongara Western Australia
Guests at Long Table Lunch, Land & Lobster Festival, Dongara Western Australia
Guests at Long Table Lunch, Land & Lobster Festival, Dongara Western Australia
Guests at Long Table Lunch, Land & Lobster Festival, Dongara Western Australia
Lunch photos courtesy of Zen Events & Photography Services.
Guests at Long Table Lunch, Land & Lobster Festival, Dongara Western Australia
Guests at Long Table Lunch, Land & Lobster Festival, Dongara Western Australia
Alannah MacTiernan and Sally O'Brien at Long Table Lunch, Land & Lobster Festival, Dongara Western Australia
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The Northern Perth Basin

The Northern Perth Basin is a prolific oil and gas producing area covering a large portion of the Mid West region of Western Australia. The town of Dongara, located approximately 360km north of Perth, is the regional economic hub for a number of industries, including oil and gas.