AWARD nominations have thrust two Colac district food producers into the national spotlight.
Otway Forest Shiitake and Irrewarra Sourdough Bakery are finalists in the ABC Delicious magazine’s 2012 Produce Awards.
Shiitake mushroom growers Matt Armstrong and Rob Wertheimer said they were thrilled to be finalists in the awards, which recognised the quality and sustainability of food production.
“It’s exciting and we are proud to have made it this far,” Mr Armstrong said.
“We are very proud of our product and very proud of the way we conduct our business.
“It’s great to have recognition at such a high level.”
Mr Armstrong said the Delicious awards’ exposure in the restaurant industry could attract new business.
“The restaurants we supply are at the top end of the restaurant world, artisans at the top of their game,” Mr Armstrong said.
“They very much keep a finger on the pulse on what’s happening in the industry.
“They’re always looking for something new.”
Otway shiitake mushrooms grow on logs, rather than in sawdust like most Australian shiitake.
Mr Wertheimer said the method was costly and labour intensive but log-grown mushrooms had a better flavour.
He said that the business would start growing other mushroom strains such as maitake, oyster and even an-Australian shiitake.
Irrewarra Sourdough owners Bronwynne and John Calvert said being a finalist paid due credit to the hard work of their employees.
“It’s a great honour for our employees who actually make our products because it says to them that the leaders in the food industry recognise the products as very high quality and well made,” Mrs Calvert said.
“People are looking for products which aren’t overly processed and contain artificial ingredients,” she said.
Leading chefs in each state chose the finalists from a nomination list of almost 2000 producers.
Judges will announce the winners on July 16 in Brisbane, Queensland.