15 June 2023

Art reflects Taralga’s bush culture and works up an appetite

| John Thistleton
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Brenden Gradidge and Chloe Smith with their children Gulliver and Gideon

Brenden Gradidge and Chloe Smith (with their children Gulliver and Gideon) had their hands full on the long weekend at Taralga. Photo: Contributed.

As well prepared as cafe owners Brenden Gradidge and Chloe Smith were for the Taralga Art Show over the holiday weekend, they were still rushed off their feet and sold out of baked treats every day.

The couple’s Grand Ettie cafe is one of several business ventures capitalising on Taralga’s artistic community and picturesque setting. During the art show every table inside and outside the cafe was occupied and at times people were waiting on the verandah for a place to eat.

Brenden, a fine dining chef who has worked in Sydney, London and Brisbane, and his multi-skilled wife Chloe opened the cafe in 2019 and had their busiest ever weekend thanks to the annual art show.

Since it was established in 2000, the art show has become a celebration of the district’s creativity. This year landscape artists, woodturners, sculptors and photographers entered more than 300 photos.

More than 1000 people came to the show, bought more than 60 artworks and strolled around the village, browsing in the small shops, two hotels and two galleries.

READ ALSO A stone’s throw from Sydney, Taralga village is in demand

Chloe and Brenden don’t open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and last week used those two days to prepare their unique menu. Their dishes include baked oats with plums, walnut and molasses butter; malt crumpet with apple honey butter, ricotta and apple; and meatballs with soft polenta.

The rush began on Friday when people began entering their artwork at the War Memorial Hall across the road and it did not let up until they closed at 2 pm on Monday. The cafe’s staff of nine were flat-out.

“We are so lucky because almost all of our staff have worked for us since we opened just over four years ago,” Chloe said. “Everyone who works for us are local, and it is a mix of high school students, people who are passionate about hospitality and some older people.

“At the end of the day we would have a chat about what was left and rewrite our menu to accommodate what we had and what we could make with what we had left,” Chloe said.

Brenden worked in the kitchen all day and Chloe baked at night.

“Pretty much every day, everything that was on the counter sold, there was nothing left.”

Some of the baked treats at Grand Ettie cafe

Some of the baked treats at Grand Ettie cafe which sold out each day over the long weekend. Photo: John Thistleton.

Chloe grew up in nearby Laggan and Brenden grew up in Bigga in the Crookwell district. The couple decided to return to the district when their first-born Gulliver arrived.

“My parents are still in Laggan, and we have a three-year-old, Gideon, and five-year-old Gulliver, and my parents help out a lot,” Chloe said.

Grand Ettie is named after Taralga’s first GP, Dr Ettie Lyons, recruited by the local progress association who previously worked in the slums of Sydney, helping 7000 patients in a year.

Art show organiser Prue Burfitt said about 180 people attended the opening on Saturday night. “The opening night is a major event for the town really – hotels and cafes packed all weekend,” she said.

Another show organiser Jan Green said people were happy to stroll along the main street into places like the Orchard Street Gallery and Joe Vinks Handcrafted Furniture. A regular exhibitor at the art show, Joe uses fallen timber to make bush furniture.

READ ALSO Crookwell turns intact heritage to its advantage

“When we had our first art show in 2000, there was very little around the town,” Jan said. That’s changed thanks to a regular influx of visitors. “I think it’s the location, it is a good distance from Sydney and people can easily get here for the weekend and there are quite a few bed and breakfast accommodation places.

“We are fortunate that our art show is on the main street in town; it is quite visible to people,” Jan said. “Even if they are just travelling through on the long weekend, they stop when they see all the people around town.”

Artworks on display

Some of the artworks on display, including the hanger’s award in the foreground, Terry Voorwinden’s sculpture Pan, made from recycled bridge timber. Photo: John Thistleton.

Sculptor Terry Voorwinden’s wooden sculpture Pan, depicting a Greek nymph made from recycled bridge timber won the hanger’s award while photographer Jess Van Groningen’s photograph of a pair of Gang Gang cockatoos at a nesting hollow won the animal representation award.

The people’s choice winner was Breadalbane artist Marion Schumacher with Passing Storm and the children’s award was won by Amy Curren from Taralga with Bush Whispers.

The overall winner was the village which shows its appreciation through art for stone buildings, the Australian bush and its local community.

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