Indigenous cooks, Karen Sheldon Training Staff and Masterchef star Minoli learn, taste and create with the UAF Centre!

Indigenous cooks, Karen Sheldon Training Staff and Masterchef star Minoli learn, taste and create with the UAF Centre!

Posted by Sophie Ader

Staff and students of the ARC Industrial Transformational Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods (UAF Training Centre)) were delighted to welcome some very special visitors over three days, to share in learning, creating and continuing to build on our partnership together.

Indigenous guests Anthony Fing, Earl White and Emily Mbitjana were joined by Founder and Managing Director of Karen Sheldon Catering and Karen Sheldon Training, Karen Sheldon and fellow Director Sarah Hickey, along with a Masterchef favourite and finalist Minoli De Silva who runs the highly esteemed and delicious  ‘Ella by Minoli’ restaurant in Darwin. Anthony, Earl and Emily are all qualified cooks and graduates of the ‘Future Stars’ program, which is collaboratively run by Saltbush Social Enterprises and Karen Sheldon Training.

Karen Sheldon Training is a valued partner and contributor to the UAF training Centre,  having been involved in a number of key projects to help develop sustainable value chains in Kakadu plum and wattle seed with high levels of indigenous leadership and participation.

Day 1  – sensory science, nutrition fundamentals, cook off and wattleseed

Day 1 was all about the sensory science to do with food. NT visitors got the opportunity to participate in a ‘fundamentals of sensory science’ workshop from A/Professor Heather Smyth. Participants learnt about the science of flavours, textures, the interplay of the mind, nose and taste, with physical activities using jellies and crunch crackers!

Minoli, Sarah and Carl participating in A/Professor Heather Smyth’s Sensory Fundamentals workshop

Participants then learnt about the fundamentals of nutrition, from Dr Olivia Wright and PhD Candidate Jess Cartwright, who spoke about macro and micro-nutrients, reading food labels and common misconceptions when it comes to food and health.

Dr Olivia Wright and PhD Candidate Jess Cartwright delivering a nutrition fundamentals workshop to guests

To finish the day off, the visitors got creative in a cook off in the sensory kitchens. They were given a range of fresh and dried or processed native foods, including bunya nuts, native mints, macadamias, river mint, warrigal greens, lemon myrtle and some herbs, spices and condiments from UAF’s Indigenous research partner Native Oz Bushfoods.

Dr Olivia Wright explaining the ‘rules of the cooking game’ and ingredients to the cooks and chefs

The creations were all too marvellous to pick a winner!

From left to right – Cook Anthony, Cook Emily, Chef Minoli, Cook Earl ready for the creative cook off!

The day concluded with an overview and tasting of PhD candidate Sera Jacob’s trial wattleseed products and a final word by Professor Yasmina Sultanbawa.


Day 2 – Quality and safety, chemistry toolkit, Kakadu plum beverage

Day 2 opened with Sophie Ader providing an overview of the Centre, why the Centre does what it does, how it works, who it partners with and some of the achievements over the past few years.

Dr Oladipupo Adiamo then spoke about the fundamentals of quality and safety testing of native foods – why it’s important, and how we do it.

Dr Anh Phan then gave the visitors a tour of the upstairs labs, showing all the instruments the UAF Centre uses for different kinds of testing we do in collaboration with Indigenous research partners (and others), and gave a demonstration of the science tool kit she created for communities.

Dr Oladipupo Adiamo running through safety and quality testing fundamentals.

UAF Centre staff and Karen Sheldon Training guests in the labs

A number of PhD students then provided presentations of their research, including Clare Wijngaarden, Tatiana Marinho, Genging Chen and others.

PhD Candidate Clare Wijngaarden talking about her research of Native ingredients and market insights. Day 2 ended with the visitors participating in the Kakadu Plum beverage project that student Jess Cartwright is working on.


Day 3 – a tour of the St Lucia Campus, Intellectual Property and Traditional Knowledge Protection and studying at UQ

Stadning in the totally green building of Centre for policy change with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Study Unit team leader Robyn Donnelly

The last day started with a much needed coffee together with Sophie, a meet and greet with Terry Bell (QAAFI’s Engagement Manager) and a visit to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Study Unit of UQ. Here, Robyn Donnelly spoke to the visitors about learning and entry pathways, support and study options available to Indigenous students.  After hearing Robyn talk,  Earl commented that “You know, it’s never too late and you’re never too old to start studying!”

Visitors then met with Professor Brad Sherman and Dr Kamalesh Adhikary in the Law building to talk about a range of things, including IP and traditional knowledge protection, before seeing the Anthropocene exhibition in the UQ Museum.

The iconic sandstone building, where visitors met with the law team, of University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus

Lunch was shared, along with warm goodbyes, and reflections on the many opportunities to continue to work together into the future… and we can’t wait to see what that holds!

Exhausted but happy at the end of their trip, our ispiring and gracious guests from Karen Sheldon Training and ‘Ella by Minoli’ restaurant.

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