Hayden Quinn’s 3 surprising food trails in Southern Queensland Country

What do you get when you let an ex-MasterChef finalist and TV chef loose in Queensland’s countryside to sniff out the best food and wine on offer?

At the tail-end of filming for Surfing the Menu – Next Generation, co-host and chef Hayden Quinn hit the road to Hampton to visit a local blueberry producer.

“It was our first experience in the region and driving through there was spectacular,” he says. “It was a little cooler, more relaxed – we’d been in Tropical North Queensland where it was super hot and when we got to Southern Queensland Country we chilled out. There was mist in the air, rolling hills… it was quite a relaxing finish to a hectic trip!”

“The local seasonal produce that is available – and how people in the area like to use the produce that’s grown here is awesome. The fact they say, ‘this is what we’ve got in our region and this is how we like to show it off’ is really special.”

Here are 3 surprising food trails Hayden discovered along the way.

Local produce and waterfalls in Killarney

“After a short two-hour drive from Brisbane we started our trip at Spring Mountain Creek Cafe in Killarney, which was really awesome,” Hayden says. “The young chef, John-Paul Fiechtner, did some amazing things but I was surprised when he started talking about where the produce comes from.

“The local plumber grows the pork and the carpenter grows beautiful tomatoes’… there was very much a community feel.

“He made this great pork dish with cauliflower and they have a small amount of accommodation, too.”

Don’t leave without… “venturing to Queen Mary Falls!”

Wine tasting and bunya pines in South Burnett

“It was mind boggling for me that Queensland has wine and it was so good,” Hayden says.

“We visited Crane Wines in Kingaroy and their small batch wine is really good. The family that run it are such characters; they’re very proud of their dogs who run around the property!

“We tried the Verdehlo and then their Reserve Cabernet that was so pungent and flavourful – it had a real good punch.

“Then they have all their jams and chutneys and vinegars. They brought out an epic ploughman platter with all local produce, including salami smoked by the local butcher.

“With other wineries and great restaurants like Cassis on Booie here, this is a food trail like you’d see in the Barossa or Hunter Valley.”

Don’t leave without… “Visiting the world’s oldest bunya pine forest, just down the road – the Bunya Mountains.

Cooking classes and coffee in Toowoomba

Toowoomba almost has a Melbourne vibe to it with the street art, and cool cafes and little restaurants, but without the crazy traffic,” Hayden says. “I loved the beautiful old buildings; it has a lot of history and lot of culture.”

“We visited Ground Up Espresso, which is down a little laneway – the crew said the coffee was amazing but I don’t drink coffee so I picked up a rooibos tea. It’s a great little pit stop or morning starter.

“We also did a cooking class with local chef Darren Watters (Encores restaurant)  at The SAUCE Kitchen, learning to cook one of his signature dishes – local beef brisket with parmesan thyme polenta, smoked tomato and roasted onion.

“They run regular cooking classes at SAUCE and you can pick up lot of cool kitchen gadgets, with a particular country flair.”

Do you have a favourite foodie spot in Southern Queensland Country? Share with us in the comments below.