Food innovation using Australian bushfoods was the focus of a school holiday program run at the Ballarat Tech School last week.
Eleven students from Ballarat high schools learnt about bushfoods with Wathaurung woman Tammy Gilson and Saltbush Kitchen owner Bridig Corcoron, product development with Ellen Burns from We Bar None and experienced a cooking masterclass with chef Suzie Fitzpatrick before designing their own new food product during a four day program.
The program comes at bushfoods from a different angle - it is about embedding in people that it is the food of the country they are from.Brigid Corcoron, Saltbush Kitchen
The four student teams pitched their creations to a panel of industry judges on Thursday battling for their product to be the next iconic Australian slice.
Program teacher and Saltbush Kitchen owner Brigid Corcoron said the students' creations were 'exceptional'.
"I had a conversation with a couple of groups and said to them 'you need to realise no one has ever made what you have made'," she said.
"The program comes at bushfoods from a different angle - it is about embedding in people that it is the food of the country they are from, about understanding bush foods, the history and the Indigenous connection."
Slice creations included lemon myrtle and pear, dessert lime cheesecake with pepperberry white chocolate ganache, custard on a wattleseed malt biscuit base, and meringue with saltbush and lemon myrtle.
Year seven Mount Clear College student Freya Campbell said her group 'fell in love' with lemon myrtle during a bushfoods session at the Ballarat Tech School during the Girls in STEM program earlier in the year.
Freya and her friends Emily Micallef and Bethany Opie said the school holiday program was an 'awesome' learning experience that had inspired them to use bushfoods in future cooking.
Ballarat Tech School director Sofia Fiusco said the food industry had been identified as a growth industry in the Ballarat region.
"The program also fits into creative thinking and that idea of innovation, and the broader idea of Australian culture and how we can learn from our Indigenous elders," she said.
One of the program's tasting judges and Visit Grampians business manager Serena Eldridge said Indigenous experiences, including bushfoods, were increasingly valued as a tourism driver in Victoria.
Brad Fernando from Regional Wine Sales Victoria was also a judge and said it was important to foster the new pipeline of innovation within the food industry, particularly as Ballarat was thriving.