Now in its 21st year, how is Melbourne's biggest food festival tracking? Should you still go? The answer is yes
The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is the all-singing-all-dancing internationally acclaimed food fiesta that lasts for 17 days. It offers more than 200 dinners, master classes and seminars featuring the world’s best chefs. And this year it’s all about water, which means sustainable fishing talks, lots of steamy cooking and even some actual fishing.
In the past, the festival has hosted heavyweights like science wizard Heston Blumenthal, and Korean-New York rock-and-ramen-loving chef David Chang. It’s Coachella for food fans, and the big stars draw an audience from all across Australia. But given that interacting with diners and putting on events has become par for the course for Melbourne restaurants, you might ask how relevant the festival remains for the local scene.
“Very” says MasterChef’s Matt Preston, who’s also part of the festival’s gastronomic committee, along with gun Melbourne chefs Andrew McConnell, Tony Tan, George Calombaris and Ben Shewry. “By focusing Australian and international food lovers attention on Melbourne for a specific time, the festival is far more broad reaching than anything that can be done individually. I’ve always felt the culture of the festival is pushed from the base by Victoria’s food, wine and hospitality industry.”
Tan agrees. “Melbourne is part of the global food network and that exchange of ideas is not only essential, it’s vital to our restaurants and the dining public.”
And that’s the thing. This isn’t just a citywide orgy of snacks. It’s one giant conversation examining what we’re eating, what we shouldn’t be and why.
Food media sessions have always been part of the line-up, including blogger debates, and Michelin guide group reviews. This year, two of the first events to sell out were talks with Chris Ying – the editor of Lucky Peach – and Per-Anders Jörgensen, the photographer and co-editor of Fool magazine.
The line-up isn’t just about celebrity. It’s about renegades on the front line, pushing boundaries and buttons. “I’m keen on chefs and presenters who remain close to their craft but with an edge - so this time chefs like Rodolfo Guzman, Angel Leon and Ryan Squires who challenge my sensibilities,” says Tan.
Guzman is definitely one to watch – he’s the chef behind Borago in Chile where wild goods, indigenous techniques and human sciences unite in dishes Guzman believes could be the answer to human happiness (or at least health). “And you want to see Johnny Iuzzini”, according to Ben Shewry. “He’s the wild man of the pastry world.”
After 21 years, the festival is more on the pulse than ever. Are you going? You should.
Industry heavy weights captaining the good ship Knowledge
Lucky Peach and Dan Hong at Rockwell and Sons
Per-Anders Jorgensen food photography workshop
Singing a song of seafood and liquor
Juicy Jay's Low Country Hoedown
Eat Ocean Drink Succulent
Mejilonnes y Movida
Sea and Spirit: Fish for Whisky with Whisky and Alement
Playing matchmaker with curds and wine
The Two Masters: Sake and cheese matching at Kumo Izayaka
Flemington Grazing Trail and Cellar Door
Tea and a tipple on a tram
Speakeasy Cocktail Tram
The Tea Cocktail Synthesis
Feasting on the bounty of the sea
Saigon Sally and Hanoi Hannah at the Nha Trang Yacht Club
The Foodscray Race at Lentil As Anything
Dinner at the Cinema, Abbotsford Convent
Are You Game? To Get Hooked on Real Food and Wine