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In Margi’s kitchen: Moree on a Plate would be lost without her

MARGI Kirkby is used to hosting dinner parties for family and friends – four or five courses are second and third nature for one of Moree’s living treasures.

But once a year her stress levels rise dramatically and, oddly enough, it’s always around the Mothers’ Day weekend.

It is also the weekend of Moree on a Plate and last night Margi was again preparing a festival-eve dinner for family and close friends – and celebrity chef and television host Ben O’Donoghue.

It’s become a tradition for Margi and her husband Will to each year host Moree on a Plate’s celebrity guest chef, and it’s a task that Margi loves.

But it’s also a task that can rattle the nerves just a little.

“I went to the doctor during the week and he said, ‘your blood pressure is a bit high’, and I said, ‘well, why wouldn’t it be’,” Margi laughed.

But preparing meals for celebrity chefs is something that Margi wouldn’t miss for the world, or the at-times intense anxiety that goes with it.

“It’s called stress, or else I’m mad – one or the other,” she smiled.

In Margi’s Kitchen: Margi Kirkby at home yesterday with celebrity chef Ben O’Donoghue, prepping food for today’s Moree on a Plate (Image supplied).

“But seriously, it’s really interesting. I picked up some tips (yesterday) from Ben and it was really exciting doing that.”

Margi and Ben spent most of yesterday preparing food for today’s festival, where Ben will share his expertise and knowledge with the thousands of visitors drawn to Moree for a day of fine food, exceptional wine and home-grown entertainment.

“I thought it was a bit of an imposition for him after getting off the plane after having a huge week at Beef Week in Rockhampton,” Margi said.

“We had pork because I knew that he’d had beef all week – pork and fennel,” she said.

Mr O’Donoghue, who with his wife Dee has established Billykart Kitchen, Billykart West End and Billykart Bar in Brisbane in recent years, said Margi and Will Kirkby were perfect hosts.

“Margi has a beautiful home by the river. I went for a walk along the banks and had a bit of a snooze in the sunshine, so it’s been a really nice start to the weekend,” Mr O’Donoghue said.

“We spent much of the day doing the prep for Saturday’s presentations, and Margi was cracking the whip,” he laughed.

“She had me doing all the work. Well, actually, she was doing most of it and I was standing there just having a chat.

“We really didn’t do too much because I want to do as much as I can on the day.

Celebrity chef Ben O'Donoghue.

“And Margi is very organised – she has got lists for her lists,” he said.

Mr O’Donoghue yesterday also visited a few of Moree's landmarks, including Yaama Ganu art gallery on Balo Street.

“It’s been nice. We had coffee at Café Gali – a nice bacon and egg roll – and had a look at some of the Indigenous art in the gallery and spoke to them about the program that they’re doing,” he said.

Moree on a Plate president Bethany Kelly says the festival would struggle without Margi’s invaluable knowledge and tireless help.

“Margi was one of the first presidents and has been on the committee since the beginning,” Mrs Kelly said.

“She volunteers every year and hosts the chef most years. They stay at her house and she takes them out over the weekend and shows them everything Moree has to offer.

“Margi does all the food prep for the chef the day before the festival, so if we didn’t have Margi we wouldn’t have a celebrity chef each year – we just wouldn’t be able to do what we do without her.

“And Margi just has that wealth of knowledge through all her connections in business,” Mrs Kelly said.

“Many of the producers that we have are a result of Margi knowing them or meeting them at other festivals that she’s been to.

“She is always passing on our details or handing out flyers and producers’ forms, and it would be really hard for us to do all that and make those connections.

“If we didn’t have Margi, we wouldn’t have a festival to be quite honest,” Mrs Kelly said.

Mr O’Donoghue arrived in Moree early Friday, courtesy of Moree on a Plate major sponsor Fly Corporate.

Fly Corporate sales manager Geoff Woodham said the airline had grown from strength to strength since establishing a regular Moree-Brisbane service in 2016.

The service was last year expanded to include Inverell.

“Fly Corporate has developed a great relationship with Moree after starting our regular service to Moree a couple of years ago and we are really excited to be able to partner such a fantastic event as Moree on a Plate,” Mr Woodham said.

“We are proud to have brought Ben down to Moree on Friday for the festival and we will get him home safely on Monday.”

While Mr O’Donoghue will today share his expertise and culinary know-how at Moree on a Plate, Mr Woodham will be on the judging panel for the hugely-popular Blokes on the Barbecue competition, a role he is well-qualified for.

Before entering the airline industry, Mr Woodham was a chef for 13 years at the world-renowned Regent Hotel in Sydney as well as on board the QE2 before switching careers in 1995.

“This is my first Moree on a Plate and it sounds like it is going to be a lot of fun,” he smiled.

Words: Bill Poulos

Image: Supplied

Moree on a Plate opens today at the Moree High School Albert Street campus from 10am until 4pm.

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