Fossils and Food: A Global First in Delicious Dining

3 May - By Martina Taeker

Chef Hardy Weyrauch and Dr Jim Gehling AO created a multi-layered dining experience with their Eat Ediacara event for Tasting Australia. The six-course degustation, featuring South Australian seafood and native ingredients, was interspersed with Dr Gehling’s informative and entertaining talks about fossils found in the Flinders Ranges. Diners came away with a new appreciation for both native flavours and South Australia’s globally important fossils.

“I have used native ingredients for years,” said Hardy, “but it’s not easy to make food look like a fossil and give it a fresh, attractive appearance at the same time.” He accomplished this well with his Palaeontologist Pie – braised wallaby shank, warrigal greens and sweet potato in a pastry shell that contained the imprint of a Dickinsonia fossil.

Jim Gehling is the ideal scientist – passionate and knowledgeable about his subject and able to discuss it in a way that allowed non-scientist diners at the event to understand. He explained why the Ediacara fossils are so significant globally that the Ediacaran Period was named after the Flinders Ranges location where the fossils were found. This is the only geological period to be named after a place in the Southern Hemisphere. Discoveries at Ediacara and research on the finds there continue to be at the cutting edge of global scientific theory.

For Hardy, part of the fun and challenge in creating this menu was to craft dishes that linked to key points in Jim’s talk. His Sashimi Strata looked almost too good to eat. The layers of blue fin tuna, hiramasa kingfish and atlantic salmon with capers, olives and baby herbs were colourful and enticing. The subtle differences in texture and flavor were irresistible. 

The course that had everyone talking was the Wild West Coast Abalone Chowder. Finely balanced flavours of native herbs enhanced the chowder without overpowering the abalone and added resonance, lingering on the palate.

The fossil talks concluded with the arrival of the final course – rock salt caramel and macadamia gelato with brachina biscotti – although the evening’s discoveries continued. Diners were thrilled to learn that Dr Gehling had been invested with an Order of Australia medal that morning for his ground-breaking work with South Australian fossils. It provided a fitting culmination to this delicious and unique fusion of land, food, science and history.

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