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Fine Dining in the Outback with Western Australia’s Roaming Restaurateurs

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Through collaborations with some of Western Australia’s aboriginal tribes, a new wave of leading chefs is re-discovering traditional avenues to source some of the world’s rarest produce. Reserved for those lucky to learn of its existence, the magic of Paul Iskov’s pop-up dining initiative, Fervor, lies in that the experience can’t be repeated twice. His rotary team of top chefs convene in remote parts of Western Australia, to forage for unusual ingredients that are a novelty, even for them.

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Each time, they fashion such discoveries as sandalwood nut or salt bush into something not just edible, but delicious, allowing guests to enjoy a complete immersion into aboriginal culture. The world of the nomad comes to life through sampling these ancient dietary staples in a backdrop that is sacred to their civilization.

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The nomadic dining concept follows a growing trend in hospitality where the focus diverts beyond just the food, creating a complete experience with the addition of events, or retail. Likewise, Fervor paints a portrait of Western Australia that goes beyond that’s on the table. Participants learn about culture and native ingredients from locals. “The stories and connections about the plants or animals are important to the aboriginal people helps us understand more about the ingredients and have a greater respect for the food,” Iskov explains.

Starting with a unique location, from the Pinnacles Desert to remote islands off the coast, Iskov’s team of chefs search for ingredients that are often exclusive to the area. The Australian boab, for example, exists only within the Northern Territory and its leaves and fruit are edible, notably containing over three times the amount of Vitamin C than an orange, twice as much calcium as milk and a long list of other beneficial nutrients.

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Aboriginal locals teach the chefs to collect and prepare so-called “bush tucker,” so their repertoire for native food is continually expanding with each new location. In Kalgoorlie, for example, the team collaborated with local women to collect honey ants, a delicacy that Iskov declares is “one of the tastiest things I’ve ever put in my mouth.”

Creating such red dirt to table experiences requires figuring out how to do without power, lighting or water in most locations. Anticipating potential mishaps like wind blowing off plates, or food going cold, Iskov and his crew prepare for the worst, with backup locations, wind breaks and blankets to keep participants warm. Remedying the crisp weather on a recent trip to Mukinbudin, they lit five open fires around the table.

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However, the challenges of plein-air dining are nothing compared to the rewards of sharing new foods and cultural experiences. As one of the oldest living cultures in the world, aboriginals place great value on storytelling as a prime vehicle to pass knowledge, important values and belief systems to new generations.

Surrounded by wood fire and an unpolluted stars cape, participants gather for a smoking ceremony, in which native plants are burnt to cleanse and ward off bad spirits, before proceeding to share stories of the area and break bread together. A recent trip to Broome saw Iskov’s good friend and native Neville Poelina talk about the pearl meat dish and the importance of the pearl shell. As a third generation pearling diver, Poelina will often “go bush,” meaning to leave one’s surroundings and run wild.

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There’s a saying in aboriginal culture: Look after your country and your country will look after you. The idea is to eat the “fat” of the land and only take what you need. Fascinated by this symbiotic relationship with nature, Iskov and his team have sought to do the same. They have learned how to mine not only rare produce, but ancient wisdom from a group of people who have successfully maintained their land under this philosophy for over 6,000 years.

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With its early 20th century European architecture and charmingly restored laneways, explore the heritage precinct of King Street at the new InterContinental Perth City Centre, an oasis of luxury in the heart of city life. Enjoy contemporary business facilities and tasteful residential living whilst sampling the best of Perth. For a best-in class experience, book Club InterContinental for an exceptional stay comprising of personalised service and exclusive access and benefits at the Club InterContinental lounge.

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