Ladies at Lunch – Celebrating the Sunshine Coast!
From turquoise water lapping golden sands along the Coast, to the lush, rolling green hills of the Hinterland, and the myriad of people who call this place home – what’s not to love about the Sunshine Coast?
Whether you’ve been living here your whole life and have witnessed the cycles of change, or have recently relocated and are still getting your bearings, there’s no denying it’s an incredible place to live, work and play. As the region celebrates 50 years of being officially named the Sunshine Coast, what better time to reflect on how it’s grown, fond memories from over the years, and ideas to continue its betterment. This month, our Ladies at Lunch were treated to a mini cooking class at The Cooking School Noosa, followed by lunch overlooking the beautiful Noosa River. My guests were Mariana Thompson, co-owner of Flaxton Gardens; Charmaine Childs, aka the Strong Lady; Julie Anderson, co-owner of Team Anderson; Elizabeth Freney, owner of Kooshka Hair; and Chris Childs, owner of Think Money.
profile: When did you move to the Sunshine Coast?
chris: We set a 10-year plan in 1997 to move here and arrived three months early. The Sunny Coast was a holiday destination every year from when I met my husband Jack. His family had a holiday house here and had been a constant visitor for more than 50 years!
mariana: I moved to the Sunshine Coast, November 2006.
julie: My husband Paul and I moved to the Coast in May 1984. I had holidayed here a lot growing up, as my parents had an onsite caravan here in the ‘70s, so I was up here most weekends.
elizabeth: I have been coming to the Coast since I was little. My grandparents looked after my brother and I on school holidays, so it was always my second home. But I moved back about five or six years ago.
charmaine: I live in London – but the Sunshine Coast is my Australian home. I grew up in central Queensland and all my life my family spent January holidaying in Mooloolaba, so the Sunshine Coast has always been a really special place for me. Once I left school I lived in Brisbane (and continued my love of the Sunshine Coast as a holiday destination). Wonderfully, just as I moved to the UK, my parents moved to the Sunshine Coast! This means that whenever I am in the country, this is my home – and I couldn’t pick a better one!
profile: What brought you to the Sunshine Coast?
charmaine: My family … and the fact that it is paradise!
julie: We came up for a holiday not long after we were married. We enjoyed it so much that Paul applied for a job that was advertised and got it so we went home, sold the house and moved up all in about a month.
mariana: To be honest, the beauty of the area, the fantastic beaches and the airport. We had to live close to an airport because my then-husband travelled a lot for his work.
chris: The lifestyle and the weather. We lived in Rockhampton, so the cooler weather was a big draw card for me.
profile: What is your earliest memory of the region?
julie: A sleepy little fishing spot, as that was all we did when we came, as my dad was a fisherman. There was only one set of traffic lights, Aerodrome Road was one lane each way with no curb and channelling. There was an aerodrome at Mooloolaba and a lot of bush everywhere. The Big Pineapple and the Big Cow were the big attractions for us kids in the day.
elizabeth: My earliest memories are going to Mooloolaba Beach and getting an ice cream from this old white house – I used to pick the rainbow ice cream! The house was upstairs and the ice cream shop was down stairs, this was before the major changes started happening.
chris: We were coming here when there were only three high rises in Mooloolaba and no road between Mooloolaba and Caloundra – you had to go out to the highway and then back down to Caloundra.
mariana: It was definitely less ‘busy’. Upgrading the Sunshine Motorway over the Maroochy River just commenced when we came here. It was still a single lane bridge and we were excited at the prospects of traffic flowing better between Coolum and Maroochydore. We lived in Coolum then.
charmaine: My earliest memories of the Sunshine Coast are of arriving here at the end of the long drive from Rockhampton and coming over the crest of the hill for the first view of the beautiful ocean – all us kids scrambling to be the first to yell, “I see the sea!”
profile: Where is your favourite location on the Coast?
charmaine: Mooloolaba Beach – for strolling along or running on the boardwalk or playing in the waves or floating down at the gentle end of the beach, this was where we spent most of every day when we were here on holidays as kids.
elizabeth: My favourite places are the top of Mount Coolum, the beaches, markets and Cotton Tree.
chris: Mooloolaba. The restaurants and beach are so vibrant and relaxing at the same time.
mariana: Cotton Tree. We spent some fantastic holidays there as a family. It is so central, yet it can feel like you’re on a tropical island when you’re on the beach.
julie: The Mooloolaba Spit, I love going for a walk along the beach and enjoying a swim to finish off, and it is also a great place to launch my kayak and go for a paddle.
profile: Why do you think the Sunshine Coast is such a popular place for tourists and new residents?
chris: It’s heaven on earth, the best place in the world – what isn’t there to love?
mariana: It is a growing area, and one of the most beautiful areas in the world (in my opinion).
julie: I love the Coast lifestyle and I know that it is the reason so many people have moved here and why so many more continue to move here. Being in real estate, that is the story so many of our clients tell us. It has a different vibe than the Gold Coast, it’s more relaxed and casual.
charmaine: Because it’s so beautiful and then because of being so lovely, loads of incredible people are drawn here, which means that the things available here are incredible – so many wonderful businesses to support a healthy, vibrant and exciting life on the Coast.
elizabeth: I think it is a popular place for family due to the beaches, hikes and Hinterland. The Coast has a warm friendly vibe, we are slowly moving forward with development but trying not to lose the ‘local feel’ that locals want.
profile: What is one thing the Coast doesn’t have, that you would like to see introduced to the region?
chris: Jack says a speedway track, but I think a Gold Class movie theatre.
mariana: A large theatre complex. We have a few all over the Coast but a central large complex, almost like QPAC.
julie: An airport that you can fly north from. It is crazy that we have to drive south to fly north.
elizabeth: More variety with culture, I find the Coast has pockets of ‘fun hotspots’ which seem to last for so long and then it is old news. We need the youth to stay and work so that this culture can grow to bring more excitement and fun to the Coast.
charmaine: As I am a performer, I would love to see more theatre venues, cabaret nights, festivals and events. There are some already of course, but more would be brilliant!
The Cooking School Noosa
With a wine glass in hand, my guests and I sit overlooking the picturesque Noosa River, feasting on Lucerne smoked fish cured with a French seasoning, asparagus salad and organic whole wheat bread.
“Can you pass the butter? Please,” I ask, gliding my knife through the soft butter, which we made ourselves just a matter of minutes ago.
Yes that’s right, the decadent spread before me was made entirely by us, under the watchful eye of chef Clement Vachon of The Cooking School Noosa.
Clement has “always been into food”, having grown up in Lyon, France, which he says is regarded as the “capital of gastronomy” in Europe.
“I’ve been lucky, I grew up in the city of charcuterie and cheese and we eat a lot of good food, that’s why I wanted to cook,” he says.
From the age of 14, Clement left school and began working in the hospitality industry, before moving to the United States when he turned 21, and then heading to Australia, where he worked in Perth, the Sunshine Coast and Melbourne, before returning to Noosa a year ago, where he landed a job as sous chef at award-winning restaurant Wasabi.
Along with our envied location, Clement says the beautiful bounty of fresh produce readily available makes the Sunshine Coast a chef’s dream.
“You can have all this beautiful fish coming from the river or the reef … and you can drive 20 minutes away from here and be in the Hinterland where all the dairies and all the meat come from,” he says, with a French lilt.
“Then you get a lot of beautiful exotic fruit, like mangoes and pineapple season – that’s why I love the Sunshine Coast.”
The Cooking School Noosa is part of the Wasabi group (encompassing Wasabi restaurant and Ibento Boutique Event Space) and offers exclusive classes with talented chefs from their own kitchen, as well as renowned guest chefs, highly skilled in a variety of cuisines and cooking techniques.
Suitable for all skill levels, from home cooks to qualified chefs, classes are available in a range of cuisines including contemporary Japanese, classic French and modern south-east Asian, as well as mini workshops on speciality techniques including artisan bread making, tea blending, preserving and pickling.
Quamby Place, Noosa HEADS
Phone: 5449 2443
French cured and smoked ocean trout
Curing the fish
- 1 bunch dill, picked and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 4 tbsp fennel seeds
- 3 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp white peppercorns
- 2 pc star anise
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 2 cups salt
- 3 cups sugar
Toast fennel seeds, coriander seeds, pepper corns and star anise on medium heat. Once toasted, crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle. Place all ingredients, including the toasted seeds, into a bowl and mix well.
Smoking the fish
- 3 handfuls organic lucerne hay or Genmai-cha-tea
- 1 fillet ocean trout, pin boned and skin removed
Rub the cure mixture all over the fish, then refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.
Prepare your smoker as per its instructions.
Rinse off cure mixture.
Smoke fish for 15-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.