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Book to showcase Fleurieu faces and food

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Passionate Fleurieu foodie Rojina McDonald Park has embarked on a project to publish a coffee-table cookbook showcasing the region’s farmers, fishers, producers and chefs alongside their signature recipes.

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More than 70 regional businesses will be featured in the book, Faces and Food of the Fleurieu, which is expected to be published around the middle of next year.

McDonald Park, who grew up on her family’s olive grove in McLaren Vale and started her own small food business making and selling cupcakes, says she had the idea for the book while on a patisserie scholarship at Le Cordon Bleu in London in 2013.

“I was trying to explain to people where I was from and about the Fleurieu and the food and the wine and the people, and I didn’t really have anything to show them.

“I had the idea for something more than a cookbook; [something] which showcases the food and the people, including their story and a recipe.”

Rojina McDonald Park. Photo: Ellen Heather

Winning the international scholarship was a coup for McDonald Park, who the same year was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the McLaren Vale Business Association. However, after three months’ study and a further three months working at the London Edition Hotel as a commi pastry chef, she decided a full-time cooking career wasn’t for her.

The book project was also put on hold for a few years while she started a family, but it is now full steam ahead.

She has established her own new business, Soul Publishing, and assembled a small team which includes SA photographer Josie Withers, writer Heather Millar, designers Erica Brady and Kim Jericho, two interns, and 20 recipe testers who will test every recipe in the book.

“I’m trying to do it with a twist because I want it to be different from the average cookbook,” says McDonald Park, who is also part of the Fleurieu Future Leaders Program.

“Each business will get two pages to tell their story … but within a sophisticated style.

“There are lots of things even the locals don’t know about because it’s such a big area, all the way from Port Noarlunga or Christies Beach to the Coorong.

“There’s lots to discover: the wineries, the restaurants, the cafes, the Willunga Farmers’ Market every Saturday … going up to Victor Harbor, Port Elliot.”

She says the businesses that will be featured in Faces and Food of the Fleurieu include some “hidden gems”, but all are well-established with a good reputation.

Among them are Coorong Wild Seafood, Bombora Cafe at Goolwa Beach, Harry’s Deli at Wirra Wirra Vineyards, dairy company B.-d Farm Paris Creek, Alexandrina Cheese, the Victory Hotel at Sellicks Beach, Willunga Farmers’ Market, the Salopian Inn, The Kitchen Door restaurant at Penny’s Hill Winery, Willunga Hills Organic, Humble Grounds Coffee and Ellen Street Restaurant at Maxwell’s Wines.

Faces and Food of the Fleurieu will include the recipe for Trott’s Pie, a signature menu item at Harry’s Cafe. Photo: Josie Withers

Each business pays a fee to cover the photography, and Soul Publishing has also received a grant from Le Cordon Bleu Australia. McDonald Park intends to launch a crowdfunding campaign next month to help cover printing costs.

The first print run of Faces and Food of the Fleurieu is expected to produce around 2000 books. She wants it be available not just through the featured businesses, but also at places such as hotels, markets, tourist hubs and the airport.

“It will be something tourists can take home as a gift or that locals can have and use themselves.

“I recently went to the Icons of South Australia shop at Adelaide Airport and there was a table of cookbooks, all done by Maggie Beer … when people leave Adelaide they will go to that store to grab a book and say, ‘I went to the Barossa’, but there’s nothing for the Fleurieu, so that’s why I wanted to do this.

“I’m really proud of where I come from and all the people in the book.”

Adrian Strachan of Willunga Hills Organic. Photo: Josie Withers

McDonald Park met with prolific cookbook author Maggie Beer early on in her project and has a letter of support from the Barossa food identity, as well as from SA Minister for Tourism Leon Bignell.

She admits her first foray into publishing has been a steep learning curve, but she’s already looking towards a second book: Wine, Beer and Spirits of the Fleurieu.

Further down the track, she envisages Soul Publishing could use the same format to produce books showcasing the food and food producers of other South Australian regions.

A few of Rojina McDonald Park’s favourite Fleurieu food places and faces:

Italian restaurant Our Place at Willunga Hill

Raw and fermented food instructor Remedy Bliss

Aldinga-based patisserie The Fleurieu Kitchen

Willunga restaurant Au Pear

Goolwa beachfront café

You can follow the book’s progress on the Faces and Food of the Fleurieu Facebook page.

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