Country girl tries out world food stage

13 Dec, 2014 12:00 AM
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A country girl at heart, farmers' daugher Rhiannon Birch is promoting WA produce and the benefits.
A country girl at heart, farmers' daugher Rhiannon Birch is promoting WA produce and the benefits.

COUNTRY girl at heart Rhiannon Birch shot to fame after winning WA's Signature Dish competition this year.

The 30-year-old, from the Wheatbelt town of Coorow, is promoting WA produce and the benefits of using them - from her kitchen.

Her passion for food started through her family's love of cooking and sharing food.

Growing up on the mixed-cropping Catalina farm also helped her learn to appreciate locally-grown food.

"We had sheep when I was young and I grew up having a pet lamb," she said.

"My parents still crop wheat, lupins and canola, which I think helped my awareness growing up on a farm.

"But my passion for cooking and the kitchen comes from my family.

"My family has always been involved and focused on food and really appreciated good food.

"My aunty is a cook and owned her own catering company and my mum has always been a great cook and encouraged us kids to get in the kitchen and help out.

"Family gatherings have always revolved around good food."

Rhiannon grew up and went to primary and early high school in the country, but in Year 9 transferred to a Perth boarding school.

She has travelled overseas, studied marketing, fashion and later graphic design and has found herself back to her roots, visiting the family farm as often as she can, cooking and promoting lupins and WA farmers.

However Rhiannon said there was a time when she didn't see herself a "farm girl".

"There was a time where I would've said 'not really', in the sense that I have never really physically contributed enough to feel that I could class myself in that category," she said.

"There has always been an emotional connection though, and I think the older I get the stronger that connection grows.

"I'm very aware of how lucky I am to have had a country upbringing and I think that is very special.

"I really appreciate visiting the farm even more as I get older and I'm much more acutely aware of the importance of farming and farmers.

"I think there needs to be more appreciation and support for farmers and I would love to play a part in contributing towards this target."

In doing that, Rhiannon landed herself her dream job.

"I work with Lupin Foods Australia, which combines so many of my interests and I am lucky to have landed a job that I really love," she said.

"I've found that I have more of an appreciation for country life and I identify myself as a country girl at heart now, more than ever before.

"I understand the important factor of supporting WA farmers and appreciate the hard work that goes into crops.

"I am interested in the health benefits and nutrition of fresh local produce, such as lupins."

Rhiannon believes more consumers are also becoming more aware of the benefits of buying and eating local produce.

"I think the farm-to-table trend is very strong and is influencing the choices of consumers regardless of whether they have grown up in the country or the city," she said.

"You can find farmers' markets in just about every suburb of Perth and they are all thriving and bustling hubs - which is a great sign.

"I think more than ever sourcing local ingredients and supporting local farmers and growers is at the forefront of shoppers' minds when it comes to selecting their ingredients.

"Campaigns and food labelling programs such as Buy West, Eat Best are really important and effective in promoting this trend and helping customers easily identify local produce."

Earlier this year Rhiannon was able to showcase her dish of lamb cutlets with a lupin-based crust, accompanied by a sweet potato salad with Moroccan flavours in a competition run by the WA Department of Agriculture and Food, through its Buy West, Eat Best program.

The signature dish event aimed to highlight the top quality produce available in WA.

The four regional winners, including Rhiannon, were each mentored by a leading chef to be in peak form for the grand final on June 2.

Rhiannon's mentor was Fraser's Functions and Restaurants executive chef Chris Taylor.

"It was interesting seeing the whole process, from taking my dish, which was very much a home-style meal, into something that could have been served at a fine dining restaurant.

"Chris Taylor helped me with the creativity behind the dish and he has shown me different styles of cooking."

Rhiannon also got the chance to venture into French-born and renowned restaurateur Guillaume Brahimi's Perth kitchen, at Bistro Guillaume at Crown Perth, for a two-day mentorship.

Rhiannon said she appreciated the whole competition experience and learnt a lot throughout the year.

She will continue her work with Lupin Foods Australia and hopefully be involved in next year's competition.

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READER COMMENTS

Consolidated
13/12/2014 6:10:20 AM, on Farm Weekly

Rhiannon, you can guarantee every eligible young bachelor farmer in Western Australia just fell in love with you! Best of luck and keep up the great work. Not enough country girls coming back to the next boom sector.

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