Truffle season in Manjimup has begun as the last colours of autumn fall to the ground. There’s a kindness in sporadic winter sunlight, relief in the rain. A fire in the corner crackles and pops. Our wheelbarrow is full of promised wood, and us? We’re sweeping the hearth in preparation for an 8-course Truffle Degustation with a special guest chef at the end of this month: Paul Iskov, and Fervor.

There’s a lot of talk about “WA’s hottest chef” at the moment, and I’m glad. Paul’s a lovely, down to earth guy, who happens to be doing extraordinary things with foods most people haven’t heard of. Paul forages for ingredients that our very land has been offering up for thousands of years. We met last year at a Fervor pop-up dinner in Busselton, where I had a chance to speak, and also, bring some apples to the menu. The smell of saltbush recalled summer time running through dunes to the beach. With Fervor and fire, saltbush scented memories became dainty crisps, paired with a native lime spliced gin aperitif. Nothing less than of my whole childhood in a moment (minus the gin!).

The Fervor experience is unlike any other long table. Why? Paul Iskov’s an artist, attuned to his craft, going after what moves him. That’s why Fervor is so special, and inimitable. For our first pop-up dining event at Stellar Violets, this will be an intimate event. A gathering for a few, in a special setting we’re yet to share with the world. I couldn’t think of better people to work with than Fervor: Paul, Steph and their team.

Our story began in 2012 here in my hometown Manjimup, when I brought together a few friends to found Stellar Violets Life Library, Living Museum and Gallery. Our vision was, is, to create an arts & cultural hub, a place for people to connect intimately to food provenance and the land. Working alongside my Dad in his large scale apple orchard business, I saw how little was understood about apples. Few who called really knew what time of year we picked fruit.

Journalists would ask to photograph apples on trees in the Spring – blossom time!

I saw this as a symptom of a much larger problem. People are too far from their food. It’s not enough to buy food in a local store, or even to follow the catch-cry “know your farmer”. If we’re going to sort out our imbalanced environment, we need to walk again where the trees grow, sit by the vegetables, harvest by hand, and taste it all fresh-picked. The way we used to…

As we grow closer to understanding the impact of what we’re choosing to eat, so we begin to explore our modern relationship to the land. The more I learn, the more I care. I want to look after the land for future generations. I want people to taste what we taste, the real deal. Listen to the land, please.

And when the land says, dig truffles… we heartily heed the call, of course!

Last Spring, Paul called in to Stellar Violets with Jess Shaver, a photographer friend, to forage in our garden. We found garlic scapes a-plenty. “Scapes” are the emergent flower bud, traditionally cut off to direct energy back toward the maturing bulb. Scapes to harvest, young broad beans, warrigal greens (native spinach), and some lovely edible blooms. We chatted about the ins and outs of growing food; he has a number of edible native crops on his Busselton property. I seeded the idea for a pop up that day, and here we are.

Paul’s returning to Stellar Violets as part of this year’s Truffle Kerfuffle Festival, to serve an 8-course truffle degustation lunch, fused with native flavours, locals foods and fresh bits from our garden. Wine is sponsored by Ferngrove, with cool climate whites and reds sourced from their nearby Frankland vineyard. Tickets are available here if you’d like to book in.  Event proceeds will go toward restoring our beautiful old train carriages.