Matt Golinksi felt like ‘some sort of scammer’ after axing as food ambassador

High-profile chef Matt Golinski says he was made to feel like “some sort of scammer” by Gympie Regional Council when it suddenly ended his contract as the region’s food ambassador.

The Gympie Gold Regional Produce website has also been closed down by council, with internet searches for the brand name now bringing up advertising on where to find cheap bongs for smoking marijuana.

For five-and-a-half years Mr Golinski used his national profile to celebrate the region’s food and agritourism experiences on social media and other platforms, as well as attending festivals, council promotions and food events.

Farmers Kim Lewis, Amber Scott, CC Diaz-Petersen, Sandra Lindstrom, Elaine Bradley, Zelda Campisi and Megan Andrews can’t understand the decision.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Councillors voted 8-1 to not renew his contract for the next eight months, arguing they could not measure if $16,000 was value for money when no key performance indicators had been put in place for the role.

“Nobody at any point rang me or emailed me to say, ‘Can we help sit down with you, can we get you in?'” Mr Golinski said.

Matt Golinski
Matt Golinski remains the consulting chef at Noosa’s View restaurant.(Facebook: Matt Golinski)

The celebrity chef said money was not the issue for him and he recognised the council was strapped for cash.

“If they’d come to me and said, ‘Hey look, we’re broke, we’re really sorry, we’re going to have to cancel the contract with you and we can’t have you as ambassador anymore’, I would have gone, ‘OK, well, I’ll just do it for free’.”

He said while “that ship has now sailed”, he promised to remain an unofficial ambassador for the farmers who became his friends by showcasing their produce at Noosa’s View restaurant and representing them on the board of Slow Food Noosa.

Matt Golinski smiling at the camera surrounded by students holding up strawberries and gooseberries.
Matt Golinski helped Gympie State High students prepare food grown in the school paddock.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

Farmers furious

The decision has been met with dismay by farmers.

“To take someone with such an incredible profile, such a great bloke, who has done so much for so many producers in our region … I am lost for words as to why,” Cooloola Berries owner Kim Lewis said.

“It’s actually totally devastating for us,” farmer and cook CC Diaz-Petersen added.

A delegation of farmers met with Mayor Glen Hartwig to express their disappointment and focus on a way forward for the agricultural sector, which is worth more than $148 million a year to the region.

Man standing in field, in front of fence.
Glen Hartwig has promised to form a consultative group with farmers.(ABC News)

Agreeing to form a consultative group with farmers, Cr Hartwig apologised for any hurt Mr Golinski might have felt about how his role ended.

“It was never the view of council that he was ripping us off,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zelda Campisi from Purity essential oils said she and fellow farmers were devastated and demoralised that internet searches for the Gympie Gold Regional Produce directory had been hijacked by drug spammers.

Page reads Gympie Regional Produce where to find cheap glass bongs in Australia
Internet searches for Gympie Gold Regional Produce now direct people to this page.(Supplied)

Ms Campisi estimated that keeping the Australian domain name active would have cost council around $20 a year and said farmers were not given the option of taking it over.

“I can’t believe it. There was a diverse range of products and people on the site, we were all accessible.

Cr Hartwig blamed the “embarrassing” decision to abandon the website on staff, not councillors.

“We don’t have a great track record and there’s a history there of frustration and anger and disappointment in council,” he said.

“This is a new group of councillors, we’re getting new management, we’re building a new organisation and it will not happen overnight.”

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Sam Bell

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