It can be a rare event for someone to find a full-time career through what makes them truly happy.
Karena Armstrong is one of those lucky to enough to not only have turned her passion into a career, but further become one of South Australia’s most renowned names in the food industry.
Celebrating 10 years since taking ownership of McLaren Vale’s prestigious Salopian Inn, Karena reflects on what brought her to where she is today.
“I’ve been obsessed with food my whole life – I love food, I love eating, I love eating with other people and the continuation of learning about food”
As co-owner at Salopian, and Festival Co-Director of Tasting Australia, it’s safe to say Karena has a lot on her plate (pun fully intended!).
But it’s nothing a person with a whole-hearted passion for food can’t take on, and do so with complete joy.
“It’s a job that’s ever changing and I deeply love it – My job is actually a lifestyle; it’s how I live”
After growing up, with an “extraordinary” cook for a mum, and surrounded by a continuous supply of fresh produce from the home garden, Karena fell into hospitality at the age of nineteen.
“It was like I found my people… There’s an intrinsic understanding of that passion for food and wine”
Crediting the core of her culinary skills to her apprenticeship under Alla Wolfe Tasker at the Lake House Daylesford in Victoria, it was 2013 when the opportunity to take over the Salopian Inn came about.
“It was probably the dumbest thing ever to do, we were green as grass, it shouldn’t have worked, it nearly didn’t work a couple of times – now we’re celebrating our tenth year!”.
Karena credits her entire team at Salopian to the success it has become today.
“Who we are and what we stand for is so clear to everyone – everyone knows we won’t buy fish from overseas, or we don’t buy Coca-Cola, it’s just not in our vision”
“We’re a regionally based restaurant serving seasonal, eclectic food and wine”
Presenting food that is well balanced, with cultural influence from all over the world, the Salopian’s in-house garden is imperative in what dishes are served.
“The garden ties it all together, the menu changes so often because of it – to surprise and delight people is the best thing you can do in hospitality”
Along with running a highly-successful business, Karena is Festival Co-Director of Tasting Australia presented by RAA Travel, an event showcasing South Australia’s prevalent and vibrant food scene.
“Tasting Australia does so much, the more I’m involved with it, the more I love it!”
Karena says the event is a platform that allows South Australia to showcase its local talent and producers.
“It’s a beautiful, boutique festival that is just going from strength to strength and I am so proud of it – it really is an amazing tribute to our industry locally”
With the return of international hospitality experts and chefs, the festival is set to continue to shine a light on great food, fresh produce and a passion for the culinary adventure.
“The Adelaide dining scene is so vibrant, the visiting chefs bring in that bit extra, but the locals are the ones that shine”
“Our diversity is beautiful, that’s what I love about Adelaide, it’s really easy to go somewhere and the food is at that high level, it’s a reflection of our community values around our food”
With the return to dining out, and supporting the hospitality industry back from the last couple of years, Karena says booking your favourite restaurant is one of the best ways to help with the recovery.
“Another way is going to the Farmers Markets and buying from our producers, they also need the support as they took a huge hit too”
“People love eating and drinking, and the love I felt at Salopian, people were desperate to come back and support us, it was so humbling.
“They see our hard work; they see the sacrifice and how hard people in hospitality work”
“We do it so well here in South Australia because we’re humble, but we’re confident – It’s a great time for the industry in South Australia”
Find the Salopian Inn at Corner Main Road and McMurtrie Road, McLaren Vale SA. Book online at www.salopian.com.au or phone (08) 8323 8769.