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Words by Sumaiya Rizvi

Photos Courtesy of FoodService Australia

www.foodservice.com

Includes Chef of the Year, Savour Patissier of the Year, Australian Pizza Championships, Australian selection for the Bocuse d’Or, Australian Seafood Summit, National Restaurant Conference.

Foodservice Australia 2017 brought together the hospitality industry of Australia, hosting a premier exhibition and show at the Melbourne’s historic Royal Exhibition Building on the 28th, 29th and 30th of May.

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Foodservice Australia, deemed the most exciting industry event of the year, featured over 250 exhibitors, 25 free workshops, four elite chef competitions, two major conferences, and literally thousands of new products and ideas.

 This is the only trade show focused on the hospitality industry, showcasing the ‘best and the latest’ to both the restaurant and catering sector. Annually, buyers and suppliers from around Australia converge to discover and learn about the latest trends in dining and be inspired by leaders and legends of the trade.

 Event Director Tim Collett deemed the show a huge success, stating:

“We had an amazing range of exhibitors and special events, and that helped to draw a record crowd. It was incredibly exciting to see it all come together. The show floor had a real buzz and exhibitors tell us they were doing solid business”.

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 The events line up included the Chef of the Year, National Restaurant Conference, Australian Seafood Summit, Savour Patissier of the Year, Australian Pizza Championships and the Australian selection for the Bocuse d’Or.

 On Day One the Australian Seafood Summit drew suppliers, chefs and experts to discuss issues in fishing, aquaculture, consumption, sustainability and menu trends. Organiser Roy Palmer from the Association of International Seafood Professionals said they were able to discuss on issues of global and local importance.

 Day Two saw top restaurateurs attending the National Restaurant Conference, a national event supported by Restaurant & Catering Australia. According to Tim Collett, the aim of this was to  “address the issues that keep hospitality operators awake at night. It needed to be focused, sharp and relevant, and it delivered”.

 The National Restaurant Conference witnessed 30 speakers in ten sessions addressing and speaking of their experiences and best practices. The speakers included Bruce Keebaugh from The Big Group, Chris Lucas from Chin Chin, Hatem Selah from Atlantic Group, John Hart from Restaurant & Catering, Frank Tucker from Rockpool Dining, Matteo Pignatelli from Matteo’s, Gail Donovan from Donovans and tech guru Robert Grimes.

 The highlight of the show were the two chef competitions – The Chef of the Year and the Bocuse d’Or Australian Selection.

“Chefs are the heroes of our industry and so we built the show around them”, said Collett.

Four kitchens were built under the grand dome in the middle of the Exhibition Building for this exciting event. It was quite a spectacle to be part of the large crowd viewing the expertise of top chefs under the pump, with this competition certainly the highlight of the day.

 Michael Cole from Georgie Bass Café & Cooking School clinched both titles when he won Chef of the Year, which included a series of knockout heats among 25 other chefs, as well as being selected out of four entrants as Australia’s candidate for the iconic Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest with commis chef Laura Skvor.

 The four grand finalists in Chef of the Year were Michael Cole, Chris Wade from Steak Ministry, Daniel Wijekoon from Hobarts by Lesley Taylor and last year’s winner Matt Weller from Bayleaf Catering. The judges were Joh McFadden, Glenn Flood, Sam Burke and Karen Doyle.

 The one-hour heats in Chef of the Year was a quick competition in comparison to the Bocuse d’Or Australian Selection; a long competition with just four competitors working for almost six hours, to produce intricate dishes that had to meet strict international rules and standards.

 Head Judge and Bocuse d’Or Vice President Philippe Mouchel said:

“It is very tough because the candidates are being marked not only on the taste and presentation of the dishes, but also on their kitchen skills, efficiency and communication. Michael’s performance was outstanding and it will be a pleasure to train him and Laura over the coming year. They head to Singapore in April 2018 and Lyon in January 2019” (to participate on the world stage representing Australia).

 The Savour Patissier of the Year contest gathered a large crowd on the gallery level and was also live streamed to an eager audience. There were 30 talented competitors in four categories – tarts, éclairs, entremets and desserts. They were judged by superstar patissiers Jordi Roca (el Celler de Can Roca’s, Spain), Antonio Bachour (Bachour Bakery and Bistro, Florida), Christophe Michalak (French TV star and owner of three patisseries in Paris), and local Paul Kennedy (Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School).

 Santiago Cuyugan was awarded Savour Patissier of the Year and he also won the entremets category. Other category winners were Vincent Denis for tarts, Joshua Cochrane for his éclair, and Alessandro Bartesaghi shone with his winning dessert.

The Dairymont Australian Pizza Championships were held over two days with heats in five categories judged by Glenn Austin, Arnold Tanzer, John Sloane, Cassandra Austin, Neil Abrahams, Monique Cribb, and Will Ewing. The winner was Simon Best from Augello’s in Mooloolaba, Queensland, second place went to Giovanna Alberti from Woodstock Pizzeria in Chadstone, Victoria, while Michele Circhirillo from 48h Pizza and Gnocchi Bar in South Yarra, Victoria was placed third.

 As the show drew to a close, organisers already had their sights set on FoodService Australia 2018, to be held on the 27th, 28th and 29th of May at the new International Convention Centre, at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

It was a memorable day for the winners and participants, and a wonderful display of hard work and talent from our hospitality industry. Cheers to all!

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 Connie Lambeth – The Australia Times Gourmet – Food/Wine/Events