Eat.Taste.Central is an annual celebration of Central Otago's Food and Beverage offerings, from its producers and growers through to hospitality venues. The focus of the campaign is to stimulate and encourage customers to visit multiple venues, increasing the profile of Central Otago as a food, wine and beverage destination. The 'Regional Menu' and supporting events and experiences are promoted to encourage locals and visitors alike to explore and try something new.
Antz Longman, Eat.Taste.Central's campaign manager said the team was closely monitoring the Alert Levels and staying in close contact with participants in the lead-up to the festival.
"As our launch date got closer, we sadly saw some iconic local events cancel due to uncertainty, and we had issues raised by venues as part of E.T.C around product supply and staffing," said Longman.
So, Longman made some changes to this year's event to ensure celebrations could continue but remove any additional stress for participants.
"The purpose of E.T.C is to experience and celebrate all that is great about Central Otago's food and beverage, so it was in everyone's best interests to keep going and encourage those who could travel to get out and support our hospitality and accommodation venues."
Some businesses simplified their offerings or reduced the number of dishes they were entering to reduce pressure in the kitchen. A few extra businesses joined after the registration requirements changed.
"We now have 45 venues across the district participating, offering dishes, events or experiences from special wine tasting at cellar doors, themed dishes that highlight local produce, even a tour of a Saffron farm."
Longman said all the businesses were challenged in different ways, especially with confidence and forward planning.
"We're pretty resilient down here, though, and understand the pressures our businesses are facing pale to some of our neighbouring communities."
However, staffing remains an ongoing issue, and as the main growing seasons for the orchards and vineyards is near, recruitments will amp up.
The response to the event has already been positive, with accommodations getting booked up by those wanting to attend.
"We'd really like to see our local communities supporting the venues, and we know that E.T.C is especially popular with those riding Central Otago's network of trails," Longman said.
It's been a difficult 18 months for everyone, but the event is a chance to celebrate the good things.
"We've had many people say they're pleased we found a way to keep the event going, and the profile of the event helps out not just during the campaign but throughout the entire year as well."
E.T.C had planned a special Weekend of Wine event to celebrate 140 years since Feraud won Central Otago's first medal for wine in 1882. Unfortunately, this special weekend was one of the event's casualties.
"However, the special MiNDFOOD Long Lunch with Master of Wine Cam Douglas was rescheduled to the 30th of October, which will round out the campaign beautifully.
"We're also running a special version of our E.T.C judge's award that will celebrate our people. we look forward to seeing, hearing and tasting the stories from behind the scenes and celebrating these individuals and businesses."
Eat.Taste.Central began on 24 September and ends 30 October.