Thu, Jan 11, 2024 12:00 PM

Festive Endeavours – Dion Brown


William Woodworth

With the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival just around the corner, the Marlborough Weekly is speaking to a variety of figures key to this year’s event, on February 10. This week Dion Brown, Marlborough Wine and Food Festival committee member for 11 years and deputy chair of Feast Marlborough, speaks with William Woodworth about what he and the committee have in store for this year’s festival.

Whether it’s as a guest, attendee, or from afar, what experience do you have with the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival?

I’ve been to I think 34 of 37 Marlborough Wine and Food Festivals as an exhibitor, a punter and a committee member, so I like to think I’ve seen the whole evolution of the festival from the early days all the way through to now.

What is something you’re planning that you are most eager to show off to festival-goers?

The new innovation of inviting local restaurants and chefs from Blenheim and bringing them into the festival environment. The festival has always been a producer showcase of everything Marlborough has to offer, but now being able to showcase local hospitality businesses too. We are hoping that inviting local, national and international chefs and supplying them with Marlborough’s produce will benefit everyone involved. It’s a lot like the Taste of Auckland model where chefs have everything they need upon arrival, and we’ll be able to show out-of-towners the food culture here as well as show locals what chefs can do with what we have freely available here.

Are there any vendors or activities you are most looking forward to trying this year?

I mean, all of them. We’re obviously famous for wine and mussels but there is so much else that is made in Marlborough. I’ll be really interested to see what New Zealand King Salmon, Cloudy Bay Clams and Mills Bay Mussels bring to the table. Our large local producers have been doing some very interesting things on a global level so it will be great to show attendees, whether local or visiting, what world-class products we produce and see how our guest chefs like Andy Cooks (Andy Hearnden) and Matt Lambert what Marlborough makes.

How did the idea of not only hosting Marlborough food producers and wineries, but also Blenheim restaurants, come about for this year?

We found that many people come in just for the festival and don’t explore the rest of the region, despite how incredible the region’s food and drink culture. So showcasing local restaurants in Frank’s and Gramado’s is a major progression for us. Our ultimate aim is that people travelling here for the Festival spend more time in the region by creating an attractive atmosphere across all of Marlborough, meaning they stay and explore more in depth instead of flying in Friday night or Saturday morning, and leaving Saturday night or Sunday morning.

Are there any memories, meals or drops of wine that are standouts from you after the many different Marlborough Food and Wine Festivals you’ve attended?

There’s just so many. Every year, the Festival brings something that will be a highlight to every one of our guests, whether it’s New Zealand or international celebrity chefs, specific standout products, epic events put on by the wineries, or the amazing party atmosphere. Being our second Festival at the Renwick Domain, it’s much more of a blank canvas and opens up more opportunities than our Brancott venue did. While everyone was pleased last year and we hope critics have been answered, we’re ready to bring a new and improved setup for this year.

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