Diners take the prize as food industry awards fuel excellence
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