Exciting new additions to the Parrtjima program this year

Parrtjima burst on to the Alice Springs social scene in 2016 in an explosion of light, and has continued to evolve and impress ever since. That tradition continues in 2020, with two exciting new experiences added to the program.

Merne, pronounced mer-na, (which loosely translates to ‘food’ in the local Arrernte language) is a gourmet dining experience under the stars at the magnificent Alice Springs Desert Park. Diners will enjoy delicious dishes featuring native bushfoods, each carefully crafted to take tastebuds on a journey of discovery.

The people showing them the way are chef Mark Olive, of The Outback Café fame, and Rayleen Brown, co-founder and owner of Alice Springs caterer and bushfood supplier Kungkas Can Cook.

Mark fuses bushfoods and culture with contemporary cooking, while Rayleen, an Arrernte woman, supplies only wild-harvested bush tucker sourced directly from the women who gather it.

“I’ve known this rich regional well through touring extensively and am very much looking forward to returning and working with the very talented Kungkas Can Cook,” Mark said.

Participants in the Future Stars Indigenous Employment Program will form part of the hospitality crew for the dinner. The work-ready program teaches life skills and helps participants transition into sustainable long-term employment.

Another exciting addition to the program this year is a cooking Masterclass with Rayleen and Mark. This hands-on experience will see participants create new cuisine from ancient foods, and learn how to incorporate them in everyday cooking. They will also learn about the stories that connect the bushfoods back to their Country and their people.

“In the Masterclass you will get an insight into the rich history of each seed and product. It’s hard for people to imagine even in their wildest dreams how the seeds could have that connection, but I want to bring this to light,” Rayleen said.

“I hope we can go even further down the track and bring the women who harvest the bushfoods into the light. They have so much knowledge. They enrich the industry and bring strength and history to the plants that are being used in Australia’s ‘new’ cuisine, which is really an ancient cuisine.

“We can be proud we have our own food history, and participants in the Masterclass will learn more about it.”

Northern Territory Major Events Company General Manager Tim Watsford said it was important to develop and improve the event to attract both new visitors and those who may have attended before.

“Merne is an incredible opportunity to enjoy a unique menu featuring wild bushfoods. It’s also a chance to see the Desert Park in a different light. It will be a very Territory experience,” he said.

“Last year, Parrtjima attracted more than 25,000 attendances, and interstate visitors contributed more than $1.8 million to the local economy. We want to continue to build on those numbers.”

Merne will take place on Friday, 3 April and Saturday, 4 April. Tickets are limited to 200 and cost $250. The cooking Masterclass will take place on 5 April at St Philip’s College. Tickets are limited and cost $150. All other Parrtjima events are free to attend. To find out more visit www.parrtjimaaustralia.com.au