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In many ways it was a case of the new and old combining to give Sunshine Coast food tourism a dynamic lift. The ‘new’ was the announcement of Star Chef Alejandro Cancino as the Sunshine Coast’s food Ambassador.

He has outstanding credentials, attracting the highest accolades as the former executive chef of Brisbane’s only three-hatted restaurant, Urbane. Alejandro left Brisbane earlier this year with his wife and baby daughter for a sea-change on the Sunshine Coast. Alejandro is regarded as one of the great pioneers of vegan food in Australia and with interest in healthy, sustainable produce growing exponentially, his presence on the Coast will further build our reputation as a premium food tourism destination.

Given our ‘naturally refreshing’ tag line, the Sunshine Coast was indeed a ‘natural’ choice of locations for him to grow his own vegan food-label, Fenn Foods, and establish a vegan café/catering business called ‘Lola’s Pantry’ which is expected to open in the next few months in Kuluin near Maroochydore.

He made an immediate impact for the Sunshine Coast when he represented the region at the Regional Flavours event in Brisbane, where some 80,000 visitors kept all the Sunshine Coast exhibitors flat-out across the weekend. From the region’s earliest days, the Sunshine Coast has been synonymous with food.

A great dairy region is now producing some of the finest cheese-makers. The establishment of Buderim Ginger and some of Australia’s largest herb and spice producers has been a natural segue for the growth of an incredible range of Asian-inspired cooking schools. And, of course, our coast is a fishing haven, with Mooloolaba and Tin Can Bay prawns and Noosa mud crabs now established as favourite menu items for chefs around the world. Another major development over the past week was the decision by COYO to move its food production business into one of our oldest tourism and food icons – the Big Pineapple.

It proves that anything old can be new again, and COYO’s move is a major plus for the Big Pineapple Renewal project. COYO has been one of the Sunshine Coast’s success stories with their organic coconut yoghurt and ice-cream handcrafted in small batches and providing a healthy, tasty alternative to dairy products. Being vegan-friendly, I’m sure Alejandro will be a great fan of COYO’s produce. In many ways it ‘completes the circle’.

For so many Australians the Big Pineapple was the symbol of the Sunshine Coast, with the pineapple parfait providing a lasting memory. Suffice to say, as trends changed and tourism became more sophisticated, the Big Pineapple’s original popularity soured a little, but with the new management providing new energy, the Big Pineapple is set to become a major component of a food-led tourism boom on the Sunshine Coast.

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