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Sapphire Coast oyster grower stars in Delicious awards
A family-owned oyster business on the far south coast of NSW has taken out one of the most prestigious awards in the Australian food industry.
Locals and visitors to the Sapphire Coast have long enjoyed the Tathra Oysters produced by Gary and Jo Rodely but now all of Australia knows about them too, with the couple's business winning the
Primary Producer – From The Sea category of the 2012 ABC Delicious magazine Produce Awards.
This year, there were 2000 nominations in four categories – earth, dairy, paddock and sea, with a focus on quality and sustainability. Products were judged by a panel of leading chefs in each state
before going onto the finals. The winners were announced at a gala dinner in Brisbane on Monday night.
"It's one of Australia's most prestigious and high profile awards so we're obviously thrilled," says Gary Rodely.
"The credibility this award generates will help us take our business in new and exciting directions. But we can assure our loyal customers around the Sapphire Coast – and any tourists dropping into our
Tathra shop – that we won't be putting our prices up!"
Gary and Jo are no strangers to nail-biting finals in food judging, having taken out multiple awards over the years, but they say this time around was particularly challenging as they were facing off
against the entire Australian seafood industry and not just other oyster farmers.
The couple has been farming oysters in the pristine waters of Nelsons Lake in the Mimosa Rocks National Park for 24 years and has a large and loyal clientele. Aside from that, their stack of previous
awards has proved the quality of their product, but Gary admits being slightly overwhelmed by the result.
"The magazine reaches over half a million readers so the exposure is phenomenal – plus apparently all the winners will be featured in the Masterchef TV series next year, so that's huge too. And now
we have about a week before the President's Medal is announced – it's a very exciting time."
Established in 2005, the Delicious awards highlight small and artisan producers and a growing interest in sustainability. Some of the country's leading chefs, food writers and industry experts joined
forces over four days to decide on this year's winners.
Tathra Oysters is also one of six finalists in the President's Medal – the highest accolade of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW and arguably the highest produce accolade in Australia. The judging
process begins with the 5000 products that are submitted to the Sydney Royal Wine, Dairy and Fine Food Shows each year – but only six make it through. The Rodelys won the inaugural President's
Medal in 2006.
The Sapphire Coast (also part of Australia's Coastal Wilderness) is the most southerly region of the far south coast of NSW, stretching from the towns of Cobargo and Bermagui, to the Victorian border.
A favourite with tourists from both NSW and Victoria, it is a six-seven hour drive from Sydney and Melbourne as well as being accessible through flights operated into Merimbula by Regional Express
More information is available on the website, <http://www.sapphirecoast.com.au>
The full list of winners of the 2012 Produce Awards is announced in the August issue of Delicious, on sale this week (July 18).
PIC: Gary and Jo Rodely with Masterchef star Matt Preston, who was MC for the Delicious Produce Awards presentation.