Being part of a workshop is a clever way of creating great memories from your time in a unique destination. Even if you’re only day-tripping, allocating some time to an activity will inspire; and they’re the best life experience souvenir you could take home. Workshops also give you rare access, not just to the experts and their working habits, but to their studios, factories and commercial kitchens.
More and more unique workshops and masterclasses are emerging in our region, all trying to reconnect us with a lost skill, tradition or past time.
These ‘old-fashioned’ ways of doing things are more relevant today as we try to live lighter, more thoughtful lives and words like sustainable and resourceful become more meaningful. Workshops can be a creative outlet, a breath, a refocus. They can force a slowdown, reveal new skills and even remind you of old ones. They can spark curiosity and encourage change for the better.
Our region is brimming with talented people, keen to pass on their knowledge and skills. Cook from scratch and eat seasonally, preserve food when it’s abundant to enjoy in scarcer months, learn to slow down, make things with your hands, share and nourish your loved ones - they’re the perfect antidotes to our hectic, disconnected lives.
Sourdough baker, Simon Matthee, from the Macedon Ranges bakery The Millet Road Maker has been teaching hands-on sourdough baking classes for a few years now. His mission is to get people to eat better quality bread, and a straightforward way of doing that is to teach them how to make it. His classes are fun, full of knowledge and generosity. Participants not only get hours of specialised teaching, but they also go home with a box full of loaves, extra flour and a sourdough starter. In addition, Simon supports the home-bakers well after the class has finished, answering any questions participants may have. I’ve booked into Simon’s March workshop and cannot wait – I’m also looking forward to having him host a couple of classes with us at Piper St Food Co this year.
One of the most memorable workshops I’ve attended was with The Fermentary’s Sharon Flynn. I found myself hooked on her passion, her love for the area and its pristine water and produce – and her ability to demystify the ancient art of fermenting. Time spent in a hands-on class is more valuable than hours of reading and watching YouTube videos. There’s something special that happens in an intimate workshop setting, bonds are formed, trust is gained, doubt is replaced with confidence, and change is sparked. I’m now an avid fermenter, my habits come and go with different seasons, but I’m confident in my knowledge and happily share it, along with jars of kraut or water kefir.
If you’re yearning for something more specialised and handcrafted, the one and two-day knife making courses run by metal design duo Rowsaan, Kyneton, offer a high level of tuition and a good foundation from which to pursue further knife making. They provide courses with two people at a time, to ensure participants are comfortable in the metal workshop, and able to produce a quality knife that they can use every day. Designers Rowan and Saan were drawn to the Macedon Ranges for the stunning landscapes and natural beauty, but they’ve stayed and set up shop because of the sense of real community. In turn, they love passing down their techniques and guiding their students to create something of ancient, practical beauty.
Our age-old techniques of traditional cookery at Piper St Food Co is the cornerstone of what we stand for. Chef and owner Damian Sandercock (a third generation chef) sees cooking in this time-honoured way as a path to reconnect. “In our busy lives, cooking is often an easy thing to sacrifice when we can rely on fast, convenient, ready-made food, but there is a real move back to simple, seasonal food that brings people together, and that’s what I love to teach.” Classes at Piper St Food Co range from Pickling & Preserving, Sausage Making to Pork Pie & Pastry Masterclasses. We also collaborate with other talented producers who share their specific knowledge, such as cheese-making and Korean cookery. We see ourselves as custodians and feel compelled to share. Our workshops revel in the region, and we promote careful use of ingredients, supporting local growers, eating and cooking seasonally, and capturing the seasons through preservation.
Embrace the creative businesses in the Daylesford and Macedon Ranges bursting with passion, generous with their knowledge and be inspired by a fresh outlook that will form lifelong habits.
The Millet Road Maker millettroadmaker.com.au
The Fermentary thefermentary.com.au
Piper Street Food Co piperstfoodco.com