A SELECT group of Adelaide chefs has been given a ground-up view of the humble onion in order to inspire new ways to use the vegetable.
Funded through the Hort Innovation Onion Fund, 12 influential chefs took part in a tour in October to Mannum, South Australia looking at the production and versatility of onions in order to build a stronger connection between growers and the foodservice industry.
The tour aimed to equip attendees with knowledge around Australian onion production and the industry's paddock to plate philosophy.
The tour visited one of Australia's leading onion farms, Rathjen Farm, plus a behind-the-scenes tour of Rivapak, an onion packing facility in Mannum.
South Australia is the largest producer of onions, accounting for around half of Australia's onion production overall.
Rathjen Farm alone grows around 300 acres of onions per year, including a mix of brown, red and a small proportion of pink onion varieties.
Hort Innovation head of marketing, Elisa King, said the tour was designed to engage with foodservice industry influencers and demonstrate the versatility of onions, contributing to the greater consumption of onions overall.
"By connecting the foodservice industry with the grower through hands-on, educational initiatives, we're able to effectively demonstrate the paddock to plate journey and showcase the effort it takes to produce an onion.
"From conveying messages around the versatility and variety of onions, to using culinary literacy to showcase new ways of working with them, this project was a valuable tool to connect the foodservice industry with local onion production.
"It is well documented that food trends start with the foodservice industry, which filter down to the consumer - creating greater demand, consumption and in-home purchases."
To conclude the tour, the chefs were able to choose ingredients from a display of local produce to cook a dish, with onions as the star ingredient.
"This exercise gave chefs the freedom to cook anything they desired from a range of fresh ingredients, encouraging innovation while showcasing the versatility of onions in culinary applications.
Ms King said, as onions are a base ingredient in so many dishes, it's essential to connect with chefs to bring them up to speed on production and the diverse health benefits of using them in cooking.
"We received really positive feedback from the participating chefs, with many saying they left the tour with a greater understanding of the onion supply chain as well as greater confidence in procuring, preparing and cooking with onions," Ms King said.