Tasmania’s largest northern city, Launceston, is already known for its historic buildings – but food culture is its latest fame.
- Launceston’s food entrepreneurs decided three years ago to compete for the title of City of Gastronomy
- Businessman Andrew Pitt says the city submitted the submission because of its growing food culture
- Launcestonians hope the recognition will give producers and growers the opportunity to enter new global markets
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has named Launceston a city for gastronomy under their Creative Cities Network.
This means that the region of northern Tasmania – home to hundreds of farmers, dozens of vineyards and a rich history of flour mills – has been recognized globally as one of the world’s best food destinations.
Also named was the Victorian town of Bendigo.
Kim Seagram, who co-founded two Launceston restaurants as well as Harvest Market, and is president of Fermentation Tasmania, said the honor was great support for the city.
“It allows everyone to rise a little bit higher and be a little bit more proud of what we do down here, and it will allow people to really notice it,” she said.
What does it take to be named a city of gastronomy?
Gastronomy is the relationship between food and culture – or as many Launcestonians like to say, it is the relationship between food and people.
Cities must submit a bid to UNESCO to be awarded a creative city title.
The Creative Cities Network was established in 2004 and aims to promote collaboration between approved cities and promote sustainable development.
Cities can be recognized under seven creative categories: crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, digital art and music.
Thirty-six cities globally have been awarded the City of Gastronomy honor.
To be approved as a gastronomic city, cities must meet a number of UNESCO criteria, including:
- Living gastronomy community
- Native ingredients used in traditional cooking
- Traditional food markets and traditional food industry
- Tradition of hosting gastronomic festivals, awards and competitions
- Respect for the environment and the promotion of sustainable local products
Launceston Food Entrepreneurs decided three years ago to fight for the title and formed a steering group, consisting of 24 passionate industrial producers and experts, to submit a formal submission to UNESCO.
Businessman Andrew Pitt, who is on the Launceston Gastronomy board, said the city decided to submit the submission because of its growing food culture.
“For cities our size, there’s really only one or two things you can usually go for, and you really have to lean into what your regional strengths are – for us, of course, it was food,” Mr Pitt said.
Does Launceston have a culinary dish?
So no. But the city has a fold-to-plate culture.
Sir. Pitt said the honor was about embracing Launceston’s entire “food system” and “supply chain” – from the fold to the manufacturing process to retail.
“The big aspect of it is to seek to collaborate with other cities around the world that are also thinking of creative and collaborative ways to address these issues, such as food insecurity or poor access to food, low nutrition and also environmental sustainability issues.”
Launceston is also home to northern Tasmania’s largest food and wine festival, which before the COVID-19 pandemic attracted up to 30,000 people each year.
Every Saturday, the town also hosts a traditional farmers market called Harvest.
There are also plans to develop a native food garden in the city at the University of Tasmania’s new Inveresk site.
What will the honor do for Launceston?
Ms Seagram said the recognition, in addition to being about branding and attracting more foodies to the city, will give producers and growers the opportunity to enter new global markets.
“We now want a network across 36 different gastronomic cities around the world with which we can shop, solve problems and collaborate,” she said.
Lauren Byrne and Michael Layfield grow vegetables on their farm 30 miles outside of Launceston.
Most weekends, they sell their products at Launceston Harvest Market.
Ms Byrne said she was not surprised that Launceston had been awarded the City of Gastronomy title.
“My husband and I originally moved up to the northern part of the state because the climate really appealed to us as breeders,” Ms. Byrne said.
“We have the really cold winters, which produce the most beautiful, sweet brassicas like cabbage, broccoli and kale.
“Then we have really nice, usually consistently hot summers where you can produce things like melon.”
Mrs Byrne hoped the title would attract more people to the idea that “food connects us all”.
“Food is something we all have in common and we are so lucky in Tassie to have such amazing products and producers who are really passionate about everything from the seed to the plate.”