Screw Green Eggs And Ham, Blues Has Way More On Offer

10 March 2016 | 4:22 pm | Brynn Davies

"There might be a Brazilian kebab, an Israeli kebab, a Moroccan kebab, a Greek kebab, there might be some other kind of kebab..."

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Once upon a festival, hungry punters munched down on dry hot dogs and undercooked buckets of chips, swigging from VB cans while they rested their legs from a hard day's dancing. Now, festival food is an art — a platform for culinary excellence, expertise and exploration of cultures and tastes from all over the world. As one of Australia's longest running festivals, Bluesfest runs ahead of the pack in terms of festival food vendors. "You can go to a festival and eat dagwood dogs and hot chips and fairy floss as much as you like, but Australia has this incredibly dynamic culture of food, and what we wanted to do was go 'let's give people a variation. Let's introduce people to different types of food so that they can have that as part of the experience'," says Shelley Sellors, who has managed the Bluesfest food stalls for the past seven years.

She rattles off some of the cuisines making an appearance this year: "Yemen food, Vietnamese food, Indonesian food, food from Hungary, Germany, France, Belgium, Argentina, Israel, Japan." Salivating at the thought. How does she choose which vendors make the cut from so many different options? "I look at all of the applications and go 'how much variation can I find? What can I introduce to people, what can we do to get people to step out of their comfort zone and try something new, and that's kind of been my mission."

"Bluesfest is a huge gig for these guys, with enormous quantities of food required and long hours. I mean 4000 eggs and two tonnes of meat."

Out of all the applications she receives, it's experience and visual presentation that wins over. "I'm a little bit old school I guess; I require everyone to send me a hard copy of their application, so they need to print out photos, they need to print out their menu. I might get six applications for kebabs. There might be a Brazilian kebab, an Israeli kebab, a Moroccan kebab, a Greek kebab, there might be some other kind of kebab, but they're all kebabs at the end of the day. I need to actually see a photo," says Sellors. Multitudes of kebabs aside, does she ever get to taste the food before she selects it? "No, not really. Someone brought me a piece of cake the other day which was really nice!" laughs Sellors.

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But pretty pictures aren't the be all and end all of the application process. Vendors need experience — Blues is a five-day festival and feeding thousands and thousands of tired, hungover, sometimes fussy eaters from 8am to 12pm for almost a week is no mean feat. They need to take into account power, weather, food shortages. "Bluesfest is a huge gig for these guys, with enormous quantities of food required and long hours. I mean 4000 eggs and two tonnes of meat. It can be hard to get your head around. They [the vendors] really need to know what they are doing or it can be a disaster for everyone." So what happens if there's a chicken crisis (take it seriously — imagine running out of burger meat)? "They talk to their neighbours, they get in their car and go to the local shops, they do what ever it takes. We work together, so if you've run out of chicken at 2pm on a Saturday, go around to all the other stalls that are selling chicken and say 'can I borrow some until tomorrow?'"

Bartering chickens and serving up the goods will be some of Bluesfest's time-old vendors, including one of their longest running stalls Sweethearts Lemonade run by "Rio, who has been with us for 26 years". Elsewhere on the menu will be Federal Doma Japanese Kitchen, Byron Bay Smoke House, Yaman, Paella, Little Brazil, The Burger Guru, Byron Organic Doughnuts and new kids on the block Claude's Food, Pasta Capriccio and Pink Lotus Vietnamese Hawkers, just to wet your whistle.

Many vendors are local to the area, keeping the love in the family. "As much as we can we use local vendors. The beauty of living up here [Byron Bay] is that we have lots of local people who come from lots of different countries and who provide lots of different flavours.

"One of the amazing things about Bluesfest is that we have both staff and stalls that have been part of the festival for over a decade and up to the full 26 years, so in a big way it's like a giant family reunion. So many people involved in one way or another are from the shire and have chosen to live here because it really is an amazing place to live. That is something we want to share with everyone we meet and connect with so they leave not only having had an amazing time but because they have connected with who we are and why we live here."