Queensland relishes gold at national food awards

Melbourne Royal

After tasting a record number of entries – from exotic jams to eye-watering chilli – the judges of the prestigious 2023 Melbourne Royal Australian Food Awards have lifted the lid on which sweet and savoury preserve-makers are gold medalists, including four Queensland businesses.

Some of the country’s highest profile chefs and industry stalwarts, including Rosa Mitchell, Jerry Mai, Adam D’Sylva and Damian Snell, formed the 12-person judging panel undertaking ‘blind’ tastings across a dozen entry categories in early July at Melbourne Showgrounds.

Melbourne Royal Award Programs Manager Damian Nieuwesteeg said it was a thrill to attract 324 entries for the first ‘cab off the rank’ in this year’s Australian Food Awards, with the program returning after a three-year hiatus.

“Not only were we impressed by the sheer volume of entries, but the quality across all classes was exceptional,” he said.

“The record entries are on the back of new category changes implemented for the Melbourne Royal Australian Food Awards, which continue to be aligned with industry trends, production techniques and importantly, consumer interest.

“The judges assessed and scored each entry on a set of six criteria – colour, flavour, texture and body, aroma, trueness to description and finish of product.

“Competition rules stipulate that entries must be 100% produced in Australia and commercially available for retail which means that the gourmet gems we uncover can be bought and enjoyed by food-lovers across the country.”

The four Queensland entrants awarded gold medals were:

  • Voodoo Mountain Preserves ‘Smoky Tomato Relish (Savoury Preserves – Savoury

    chutney, relishes and jams class) – business owner Sandy de Roode made a career change in 2019, trading her steel capped boots and high vis to move from the world of shipping and industry to pursue her preserve-making passion from her property overlooking Turkey Beach in Central Queensland

  • Pine River Pantry ‘Real Smoked Tomato Ketchup’ (Savoury Preserves – Savoury sauces class) – established in 2020, Brisbane husband-and-wife Pete and Kristina (who have 20 years’ shared experience as chefs) are applying their talent to creating next- level pantry staples

  • FermenStation ‘Noosa Chilli Oil/Fermented Organic’ (Savoury Preserves – Chilli class) – this Sunshine Coast business’ owners Yuka and Yuki are fermentation specialists and their famed koji is a key ingredient in this flavourful oil


• Rice Culture ‘Organic Vintage Miso’ (Savoury Preserves – Pickled, fermented or preserved fruit or vegetables) – a young business (established in 2021) on the Gold Coast (Carrara) whose an ‘all mum’ staff want to improve gut health for all.

“These passionate producers represent the best of the best in their respective classes,” Damian said.

A comprehensive list of all the gold, silver and bronze medallists for the 12 sweet and savoury preserves entry classes – spanning conserves, mustards, relishes, vinegars, dressings, cordials and much more – can be found at melbourneroyal.com.au/australian-food-awards/sweet-and- savoury-preserves.

“We encourage everyone to seek out these tasty, high-quality products in their supermarket, local farmers’ market or via the businesses’ online stores,” Damian said.

“When consumers support local manufacturers and producers, it opens the door to business expansion and creation of new jobs throughout the supply chain. It’s good for everyone and Melbourne Royal is proud to shine a light on Australia’s finest.”

Melbourne Royal CEO Brad Jenkins acknowledged the many people who assisted the huge logistical challenge of coordinating and judging the award entries.

“A specialist team of judges, stewards and officials worked hard behind the scenes to deliver a high standard of competition and we’re incredibly grateful for the way these individuals generously shared their knowledge and experience to benefit all entrants through detailed, constructive feedback,” Brad said.

“We also wish to sincerely thank our sponsors, Plasdene Glass-Pak and Agriculture Victoria, and congratulate the trophy winners and medallists – we look forward to showcasing your stories and providing a platform to celebrate your achievements and expand your success.”

The Melbourne Royal Food Awards program provides organisations with an opportunity to benchmark against their competitors, inspire innovation and improve the quality of their product. The revamped five-category Awards program was in response to industry feedback and the overwhelmingly positive response, including record entries in the Preserves category, illustrates the Awards are back bigger and better than ever.

Entries for the Dairy category of the 2023 Melbourne Royal Australian Food Awards are now open until August 4.


/Public Release.