Din­ers take the prize as food in­dus­try awards fuel ex­cel­lence

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - Ju­dith Elen

ELEVEN as­pir­ing chefs and wait­ers held their breath on Mon­day night when Lexus Young Chef and Lexus Young Waiter 2007 win­ners were an­nounced at a din­ner at the Art Gallery of NSW in Syd­ney.

The awards are an in­spir­ing fo­cus for the new restau­rant gen­er­a­tion, and a fil­lip for the coun­try’s din­ers, pro­mot­ing world-class pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the in­dus­try.

FoodDe­tec­tive chat­ted with chefs new and es­tab­lished. Luke Man­gan ( Glass Restau­rant, Syd­ney Hil­ton) heads the judg­ing panel drawn from across the coun­try, and is founder and co-di­rec­tor with MD Lucy Al­lon. Cheong Liew from Ade­laide’s The Grange was there sup­port­ing his restau­rant’s young waiter nom­i­nee Jai Leighton, who took out the hon­ours.

Syd­ney chefs Serge Dansereau ( Bathers’ Pavil­ion), Tony Bil­son ( Bil­son’s Restau­rant) and Tet­suya Wakuda ( Tet­suya’s) were there, and Mark Ed­wards, ex­ec­u­tive chef of Nobu group, sec­ond only to the Ja­panese mas­ter him­self, was guest of hon­our.

From a coun­try­wide list of fi­nal­ists, fresh­faced en­thu­si­ast Me­lanie Gow­ers, from the Ade­laide Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, was named young chef of the year, with Ni­cholas Hill from E’cco Bistro, Bris­bane, run­ner up and Vir­gin At­lantic peo­ple’s choice. Gow­ers told De­tec­tive her great love is patis­serie. She will rep­re­sent us at the San Pel­le­grino Cook­ing Cup in Venice next year, and do a week’s work ex­pe­ri­ence at Nobu Lon­don.

Leighton was a pop­u­lar choice for star young waiter; Sarah Bartlett of Still­wa­ter in Launce­s­ton was run­ner-up and Ja­son Chow, from Syd­ney’s Aria, was Vir­gin At­lantic peo­ple’s choice. www.youngchef.com.au.

MAN­GAN an­nounced at the din­ner that the awards will in fu­ture be known as Lexus Ap­petite for Ex­cel­lence, to ac­com­mo­date a new third cat­e­gory to be added in 2009: Lexus Young Restau­ra­teur of the Year.

EX­CEL­LENCE has again been saluted with Aus­tralian Gourmet Trav­eller 2008 Restau­rant Guide Awards, un­veiled on Wed­nes­day night at Nobu Melbourne, but there were some gap­ing holes. Vic­to­ria and NSW dom­i­nate the list to the near to­tal ex­clu­sion of the rest of the coun­try; Far North Queens­land is the sin­gle ex­cep­tion, where Nu Nu, Palm Cove, snapped up best re­gional restau­rant award.

The list’s top hon­our, restau­rant of the year, went to Syd­ney chef Greg Doyle’s Pier, de­scribed by the judges as sub­lime and seam­less. Best new restau­rant went to Melbourne’s Rock­pool Bar & Grill.

Th­ese three awards head a list of nine (new tal­ent, best maitre d’, wine list, som­me­lier, bar, out­stand­ing in­dus­try con­tri­bu­tion). Five win­ners are from Vic­to­ria, three NSW, one (Nu Nu) from Queens­land.

Of the awards’ three-star list of the coun­try’s finest din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, one restau­rant is in Melbourne ( Vue de Monde) and 10 in Syd­ney. That’s it.

The awards also list their top 10 restau­rants by re­gion around the coun­try (al­though th­ese re­mote ter­ri­to­ries seem of such small con­cern that SA was omit­ted en­tirely from the orig­i­nal press re­lease that went out fol­low­ing the din­ner).

There are some mem­o­rable ta­bles among the re­gional lists (in­clud­ing Perth’s num­ber two, the soon-to-be de­funct Eminem); they’re just not three star, ac­cord­ing to Gourmet­Trav­eller . Judges were from around the states. THE trop­i­cal north had an­other mo­ment in the sun this week: the re­gional branch of the 2007 Restau­rant and Cater­ing Queens­land awards, with 180 en­trants in 27 cat­e­gories, named its win­ners at a din­ner at The Reef Ho­tel Casino in Cairns.

Lead­ers were: Restau­rant of the year, The Salsa Bar and Grill in Port Douglas; Adelfia Greek Tav­erna, Cairns, top new restau­rant; and caterer of the year went jointly to Red Ochre Grill in Cairns and Port Douglas Cater­ing. Win­ners will com­pete in the state awards to be an­nounced at Gianni Events at Port­side, Bris­bane, on Septem­ber 17. www.rc­qevents.org.au.

CEL­LAR-DOOR show­case for more than 50 lo­cal bou­tique wine­mak­ers, Stones of the Yarra Val­ley, at Cold­stream, Vic­to­ria, is mak­ing a name for it­self with gourmet events, no­table among them Melbourne chef Greg Malouf’s Sun­day Arabesque lunches.

Malouf and Ge­orge Calom­baris of Melbourne’s The Press Club will present a Greek lunch ban­quet on Sun­day, Septem­ber 2. A Greek gui­tarist will en­ter­tain, and the chefs will talk din­ers through the menu. There are places left; $85 a head (ex­clud­ing wine). Book­ings, (03) 9739 0900; www.stone­soft­he­yarraval­ley.com.

BRUSH with foam. Few of us are likely to be eat­ing at Fer­ran Adria’s el Bulli restau­rant in Roses, north of Barcelona, be­cause it’s booked out for years.

How­ever, fol­low­ing a tor­tured con­ver­sa­tion (via in­ter­preters) with Alain De­vahive, re­search chef at el Bulli’s Barcelona lab­o­ra­to­ries, De­tec­tive can re­port that we’ll soon be able to in­ject a lit­tle el Bulli at­ti­tude into home din­ner par­ties. De­vahive was in Syd­ney this week, demon­strat­ing at trade show Restau­rant 07 at Moore Park. Tex­turas, a range of emul­si­fiers, geli­fiers, prod­ucts for spher­i­fi­ca­tion and other things De­tec­tive can only guess at, is be­ing used in seven Melbourne restau­rants, Vue de Monde and Circa, the Prince among them, and 11 in Syd­ney, in­clud­ing Quay, Aria and Est.

Mini-kits for home kitchens will be on sale in com­ing months at Si­mon John­son stores around the coun­try. They will con­tain five prod­uct packs, sy­ringe, spe­cial spoons and recipe book­let. At el Bulli, Adria has aban­doned the idea of recipes, De­vahive tells De­tec­tive , in favour of con­cepts; it’s pure phi­los­o­phy in the kitchen. Should be fun. www.tex­turasel­bulli.com; www.si­mon­john­son.com.au.

COOK­BOOK queen Donna Hay has wrapped up a nice lit­tle Chrissie gift for her­self, sign­ing up with Bri­tish su­per­mar­ket chain Sains­bury’s to have her home­wares in their 113 stores in time for Christ­mas. Hay’s favourite Donna Hay Home Items will be part of the range, as well as new cook­ing prod­uct packs cre­ated spe­cially for Sains­bury’s. Th­ese will in­clude cookie and cup­cake mixes with re­lated kitchen tools (a dove cookie cut­ter for Christ­mas, for ex­am­ple). www.don­na­hay.com.au.

COL­LEC­TION of din­ers: De­tec­tive has given read­ers plenty of time to come up with a great col­lec­tive noun for a ta­ble of din­ers ( Travel&In­dul­gence , July 21-22). The Travel &In­dul­gence ed­i­tor has had to be phys­i­cally re­strained from en­ter­ing, with a ‘‘ bloat of din­ers’’, the ac­tual col­lec­tive noun for a gath­er­ing of hip­pos. But the panel chooses: a ‘‘ de­tente of din­ers’’ from Gary Price of North Melbourne. Justin North’s Be­casse is in the mail. And a book from our shelves goes to wor­thy run­ner-up J.R. Black, of By­ron Bay, with a ‘‘ con­course of din­ers’’. Well done to all our en­trants.

Find of the week: Co­bram Es­tate, on the banks of the Murray in Vic­to­ria, has two new ex­tra vir­gin oils, from home-grown Span­ish olive va­ri­eties: smooth, but­tery Ar­be­quina and com­plex, ro­bust Picual (375ml, $13.60) from spe­cialty shops and su­per­mar­kets in­clud­ing Wool­worths and Coles. www.co­brames­tate.com.au.

De­tec­tive loves: Chris Man­field’s newly opened Uni­ver­sal restau­rant, an oa­sis of light and sub­lime food in the grey-stone end of Palmer Street in East Syd­ney. In a win­ter­bare court­yard rem­i­nis­cent of Scan­di­navia, Uni­ver­sal’s glow co­coons in­door-out­door ta­bles; the menu of small in­tense dishes cul­mi­nates in a choco­late trio with a sub­tle ex­plo­sion of vanilla salt. www.uni­ver­sal­restau­rant.com.

De­tec­tive loathes: Menus that plod through a pre­dictable list of pro­duce: meat, chicken, fish. What bliss to open a list of dishes and in­gre­di­ents that sur­prise.

Fresh tal­ent: Gow­ers

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