Acclaimed Executive Chef, Josh Lopez, has signed on as the ambassador for this year’s Scenic Rim Eat Local Week, as part of a partnership between the Scenic Rim Regional Council and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA).

QAGOMA Executive Chef, Josue (Josh) Lopez, is a passionate advocate of using seasonal, local ingredients and says he’s excited to be involved in the Scenic Rim’s celebration of regional food and farming.

The QAGOMA partnership features a number of initiatives, including a Scenic Rim themed degustation menu at the GOMA restaurant throughout June, and a Culinary Internship, offering an aspiring Scenic Rim chef the opportunity to be embedded with Josh’s kitchen team.

Eat Local Week runs from June 27 to July 5 and features a packed schedule of free and low-cost events, including farm tours, cooking classes and producer dinners. Josh will present a cooking demonstration on July 4 at Eat Local Week’s signature event, the Winter Harvest Festival.

“As an apprentice I wasn’t exposed to farms, or to seeing where produce was being grown,” Josh explains.

“You just placed your order and the produce turned up at your door. It wasn’t until I got my first head chef role that I thought, ‘Hang on, every decision about ingredients impacts the menu.’ Now I can’t stop thinking about it. I also see the impact shopping local and selecting seasonal and regional ingredients has on the sense of community.

“To be asked to be the Eat Local Week ambassador is really humbling and I hope I can plant the seed, particularly with the younger generation, to be engaged with the produce and to rethink their food. For me sourcing produce that’s local, sustainable and in-season is imperative. Once we’ve covered all those bases it’s about being respectful to the ingredients and trying to utilise as much of them as we can.”

Scenic Rim Eat Local Week showcases the food and wine of the region, with a focus on the producers. The region, with its fertile alluvial soil, produces a bounty of fruit, vegetables, wine, milk, craft beer and gourmet produce such as olives, cheese, jams and relishes.

Scenic Rim Mayor, John Brent, says agriculture and tourism contribute $402-million to the regional economy and Eat Local Week is a celebration of the people whose hard work makes that possible.

“This event had humble beginnings in 2011 and has grown and improved every year since then it is now a much-anticipated event on our calendar,” says Cr Brent.

“I’m thrilled that we have been able to form a partnership with QAGOMA, and in particular with a young, vibrant chef like Josh Lopez, whose vast talents in the kitchen enables him to take our Scenic Rim raw ingredients and make them sing.

“I believe the partnership will focus attention on our region and our food producers, while offering an aspiring chef the opportunity to learn from one of Queensland’s leading chefs.”

Scenic Rim Eat Local Week asks visitors and Scenic Rim locals to consider their food and wine choices and to recognise the array of products available on their doorstep. It also provides an insight into how our fresh food is produced. This authentic food event connects consumers with farmers and highlights the benefits of sourcing food that’s in-season and locally grown.

Josh grew up in Brisbane and trained in some of Europe’s top Michelin Star restaurants, including Copenhagen’s renowned ‘Noma’, working under Executive Chef René Redzepi. He is well acquainted with the produce that’s grown in the Scenic Rim, particularly in the fertile Fassifern Valley, as he regularly visits his wife’s family in Boonah.

Josh says whenever he visits he goes home with farm-fresh produce and was so taken with the local carrots that he featured them on the menu he prepared for the world leaders during the G20 Summit in Brisbane.

“I met my wife in 2004 and I’ve been coming out to the Fassifern Valley, Boonah and Kalbar since then,” says Josh.

“Initially I didn’t put two and two together that that’s where a lot of the food I cooked with came from. I’ve learned a lot about the local produce and now understand how the alluvial soils of Kalbar produce these amazing carrots. That relationship really resonates me and so when I was asked to be the ambassador for Scenic Rim Eat Local Week it was a no brainer.”

Eat Local Week and the Winter Harvest Festival are supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland, as part of a growing calendar of sporting, cultural and regional events throughout the state.