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MasterChef star Steph De Sousa ready to TikTok her way at Aroma festival

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There’s a spring in the step of MasterChef Australia alumni Steph De Sousa.

And, it has nothing to do with the season fast approaching next month.

No, the Lake Macquarie resident cannot contain her joy with the Aroma Coffee and Chocolate Festival returning to Maitland this weekend.

The scent of freshly-ground coffee beans and rich melted chocolate will fill the air as The Levee’s Riverside car park plays host to expert chocolatiers, talented baristas and the region’s finest winemakers from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 August.

“Full credit to mayor Philip Penfold and Maitland City Council for putting it on again,” De Sousa said.

“Festivals like this, particularly those focused on food, are so important in our bounce back from COVID, from floods, from everything we’ve dealt with over the past two-to-three years.

“For me, personally, I have been hugely hit by the pandemic.

“A lot of work I do is with, or at, festivals and large events.

“Sadly, there just haven’t been any.

“So, Aroma is kind of like the first ‘coming out’ after COVID, which is so exciting.

“I think it’s going to be a real buzz.

“Not only are the people participating in the event eagerly awaiting to get out and do it again, but the community want to be among it, too.

“This [Aroma] is the perfect excuse to do that.”

Maitland City mayor Philip Penfold and Steph De Sousa at the launch of the Aroma Coffee and Chocolate Festival.

Between brews, the crowd can pick up a kitchen trick or two during a series of informative and engaging workshops and talks.

De Sousa, herself, will host the Flavour Stage both days, alongside a bunch of brilliant local businesses and eateries, such as Birch & Coffee Co, The Cunning Culinarian, Mocopan Coffee and Central Coast-based Mr Black Roasters and Distillers.

“Maitland is fast becoming a foodie destination,” she said.

“And, at the Flavour Stage, there’ll be constant cooking demonstrations the whole way through.

“I’m doing a demo of my own on Saturday and Sunday.

“It will be based on chocolate and coffee, obviously, to fit into the theme of the Aroma festival.

“I’ll also share some fun, viral TikTok recipes.

“I don’t think the older generation – that’s anyone over 18 – realises that social media platform boasts a great food community.

“So, I’m keen to show them.”

Inspired by Maggie Beer, Rick Stein, Stephanie Alexander and Sri Lankan Peter Kuruvita, De Sousa put her name forward for Masterchef Australia in 2019… and has never looked back.

“I look on my experience so fondly,” the mother-of-four told the Newcastle Weekly.

“People always ask ‘was it worth it?’

“My god, it definitely was.

“Firstly, for the education and, secondly, for the exposure.

“I can say the word ‘MasterChef’ and it opens doors for me.

“They won’t hand me anything on a plate.

“But, it’s provided opportunities and that’s been incredibly valuable for me to establish myself as a food identity within the community.

The Hunter’s own Reece Hignell and Steph De Sousa. Photo: Peter Stoop

“Pre-COVID, I was involved with large events, presenting at festivals – those kinds of things.

“Then, when the pandemic hit, all of that disappeared and I had to figure out what I was going to do.

“So, I went into the kitchen.

“I ‘cheffed’ in a professional capacity for about a year-and-a-half.

“Approximately six months ago, I resigned because my sister became very unwell.

“Unfortunately, I’m going to lose her soon, so I headed to the Gold Coast to spend some precious time with her.

“In fact, I’ve only just got back to the area.

“And, it feels right with everything returning in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland and the Hunter.

“The region’s re-emerging from its COVID slumber.

“After so many setbacks, and cancellations, the Aroma Coffee and Chocolate Festival is actually going to occur.

“And, that’s very exciting.

“I literally can’t wait.”

From crepes and cookies to pastries and cupcakes, Aroma will boast an amazing array of treats.

Plus, if you fancy something other than coffee, there are alcoholic options aplenty, from wine and craft beer to cider and liqueurs.

Soundtracking the weekend are myriad local musicians and singer songwriters, such as Newcastle indie roots act Helena Kitley, blues guitarist Buddy Knox and gypsy jazz band Cygan Groove.

For more information on the Maitland Aroma Coffee and Chocolate Festival’s entire program, visit www.maitlandaroma.com.au

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