TURN UP THE HEAT

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Susan Kuro­sawa

TO de­fend his crown as 2007’s cham­pion bar­be­cue chef, The Aus­tralian’s Graeme Blun­dell com­peted in last week­end’s Set­tler’s Cove Cel­e­bra­tion of Aus­tralian Food & Wine at Noosa on the Queens­land Sun­shine Coast. Pic­nic food was this year’s theme as news­pa­per and mag­a­zine food writ­ers and crit­ics cooked un­der can­vas and were judged for two awards, the first by a panel of res­tau­ra­teurs and chefs and the sec­ond by pub­lic vote from fes­ti­val-go­ers who spent the af­ter­noon scoff­ing the pic­nic fare.

Or­gan­is­ers Jim Ber­ardo and Greg O’Brien of Ber­ardo’s Restau­rant and Bar couldn’t have dreamed up bet­ter weather. A big blue bowl of sky sat over Li­ons Park and the air was fizzing-fresh. Deni Hines, James Mor­ri­son and Mar­cia Hines per­formed in a grassy am­phithe­atre roamed by the oc­ca­sional brush turkey and the con­tes­tants cooked in well-ven­ti­lated open-sided tents on the lawn.

Last year, the sweaty ac­tion took place in the over­heated and some­times smoky main mar­quee where, says Blun­dell, ‘‘ We all found out just how hot it must get in a pro­fes­sional kitchen.’’

The con­tes­tants worked very hard, as­sisted by su­per­vis­ing chef Shane Bai­ley from Ber­ardo’s on the Beach, visit­ing chefs and teams of helpers from lo­cal restau­rants. In Blun­dell’s case, his brigade com­prised chef Pa­trick Ed­wards from the Hamil­ton Strand, 45 min­utes in­land from Port Fairy in Vic­to­ria, where he cooks ‘‘ mod­ern Ital­ian . . . try­ing to mix things up a bit, spe­cial­is­ing in lo­cal pro­duce like goat’s cheese and olive oil’’ and, as­sist­ing with as­sem­bly and serv­ing the long queues, lo­cal wait­ers So­phie Holt and Tammy Moroney.

Blun­dell’s dish of Tajima wagyu beef burger with bush-pep­per rel­ish and Noosa Reds toma­toes didn’t win this year al­though ap­plause from the ground placed him a clear sec­ond in the pub­lic vote cat­e­gory to VogueEn­ter­tain­ing+ Travel’s Matt Pre­ston, whose tri­umphant cre­ation was bar­be­cued Barker’s Creek pork with fish sauce caramel and lime juice slaw.

Pre­ston scooped the panel’s award as well and was in­stantly ribbed by his op­po­nents and loudly ac­cused of pork-bar­relling votes.

The other food journos cook­ing on the day were Tony Love of Ade­laide’s The Ad­ver­tiser , Lizzie Loel of Bris­bane’s Courier-Mail and Si­mon Thom­sen of The Syd­neyMorn­ingHer­ald . Good sports all, and ev­ery dish was a win­ner in Depar­tureLounge ’ s view. (Holt says she was so im­pressed with the rush for Blun­dell’s wagyu burg­ers she’s think­ing of open­ing a stall to sell the take­away dish at a Sun­shine Coast grow­ers mar­ket.)

THREE con­sec­u­tive de­gus­ta­tion din­ners were held at Ber­ardo’s Restau­rant and Bar over the long week­end and Blun­dell and Lounge at­tended the Sun­day night event, which was hosted by VE+T ’ s se­nior ed­i­tor, Sally Feld­man, who in­tro­duced the eight par­tic­i­pat­ing chefs to 115 ap­pre­cia­tive din­ers. Spot­ted in the crowd were the im­mac­u­lately groomed Di Sassi of Sassi at Bale in Port Douglas and chatty Si­mon Marnie of ABC ra­dio and the LifeStyle Food Chan­nel, who acted as com­pere for the fes­ti­val events.

Lounge ’ s choices as star dishes of the night were Yamba prawn pasta with peas, pancetta and chilli by Alex Kearns of Glebe Street Diner in Syd­ney and black beans, black olives in saf­fron oil, ocean trout, mus­sels and fresh dill salad by Cheong Liew of The Grange in Ade­laide. Liew, who ear­lier in the day shared one of Blun­dell’s wagyu burg­ers with Lounge , said the in­spi­ra­tion for the dish came while stand­ing in a su­per­mar­ket at Nam­bucca Heads on the NSW north coast. Lounge has never been so in­spired in a Woolies or a Coles and made sure she fled into the night be­fore she was roped into help­ing with the wash­ing-up. Ber­ardo and O’Brien es­ti­mate 2178 glasses were used for the nine-course feast.

THIS an­nual events-packed long week­end shows just what fab­u­lous re­gional pro­duce Aus­tralia has to of­fer. The ca­ma­raderie be­tween chefs, food in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als and folk who just love good nosh and wine was ex­cep­tional. Long may it con­tinue. www.cel­e­brate­foodand­wine.com.

ON Tues­day night, Lounge, shaped like a sofa af­ter the Noosa week­end, was spir­ited into the Qan­tas First Lounge at Syd­ney in­ter­na­tional air­port by the air­line’s Car­lie Bul­loch for a din­ner with Qan­tas ex­ec­u­tive gen­eral man­ager John Borghetti and Neil Perry of Rock­pool and a long ta­ble of guests.

The oc­ca­sion was the 12-month an­niver­sary of the Qan­tas First Lounge, which fea­tures a ver­ti­cal trop­i­cal gar­den and cus­tomised furniture and was de­signed in tan­dem with the new A380 in­te­ri­ors.

Borghetti says about 88,000 seated meals have been served from the Per­ry­de­signed menu (he’s the air­line’s con­sul­tant chef) in the lounge since May last year; the most pop­u­lar dish is Perry’s salt and pep­per squid. About 50,000 self-serve buf­fet meals have also been scoffed and com­pli­men­tary treat­ments in the Payot Paris day spa have hit the 10,000 mark. Perry claims you can get the best break­fast in Syd­ney at the First Lounge; cer­tainly the cof­fee is pop­u­lar, with an av­er­age of 5200 cups served a month.

Borghetti reck­ons he sat down a few years ago with the air­line’s in­dus­trial de­sign con­sul­tant Mark New­son (he’s the chap who cre­ated the award-win­ning Qan­tas Skybed in 2003) for a meal and ‘‘ sev­eral bot­tles of red wine’’ and they got to talk­ing.

‘‘ New­son sketched some de­signs on a pa­per table­cloth and I woke up next morn­ing with a 2000sq mfirst-class lounge in my pocket,’’ Borghetti said. Lounge could but know­ingly nod.

Qan­tas will in­au­gu­rate its first A380, be­tween Melbourne and Los An­ge­les, in Oc­to­ber; the air­line has also in­tro­duced Pre­mium Econ­omy cab­ins on se­lected B747-400 flights. www.qan­tas.com.au.

FIND OF THE WEEK: En­ter a Dor­ling Kindersley Eye­wit­ness Travel Guides con­test (runs May 28 to July 1) in con­junc­tion with An­gus & Robert­son and you could win one of five prize packs of travel books worth $100 each. The book­seller is also of­fer­ing 20 per cent off Eye­wit­ness ti­tles un­til July 1. To en­ter, de­scribe in 200 words or less ‘‘ the most far-out place I’ve trav­elled to in the past 15 years’’. Send to: pub­lic­ity@an­gus­robert­son. com.au.

LOUNGE loves: The suc­cess at the Chelsea Flower Show in Lon­don of the fab Flem­ing’s and Trailfinders Aus­tralian Gar­den de­signed by Jamie Durie with 100 per cent in­dige­nous plant­ings.

LOUNGE loathes: Air­line pas­sen­gers who re­cline their seats as meals are be­ing served with no re­gard to those seated be­hind, bat­tling with their tray ta­bles.

Pic­ture: Susan Kuro­sawa

Big bite: Cheong Liew with Graeme Blun­dell’s wagyu beef burger at Noosa’s food and wine event

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