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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 Lucky Peach and Dan Hong at Rockwell and Sons
It’s the axis of awesome sneakers, hip hop and boundary smashing food at this event, as Dan Hong, Casey Wall and the editor in chief of the world’s most arse-kicking food mag, Lucky Peach, unite for dinner.

Chef Jam Chef Jam
If you are lucky enough to be a card-carrying member of Melbourne's food and drink industry then you best sure up your tickets to Chef Jam, with panel discussions and demonstrations from incredible chefs, sustainable produce advocates, jounalists, photographers and teachers.

Per-Anders Jorgensen food photography workshop Per-Anders Jorgensen food photography workshop
Founder and photographer of intelligent, well-spoken and downright good-looking Fool magazine, Per-Anders Jörgensen, will be conducting a six-hour food photography masterclass at Essential Ingredient.


Singing a song of seafood and liquor

Juicy Jay's Low Country Hoedown Juicy Jay's Low Country Hoedown
Juicy Jay – master of crab boils and lover of good Southern times – is making a comeback for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival with communal lunch of crabs, crayfish, corn bread and hot sauce, tunes of the Deep South, cold beers and sweet tea.

Eat Ocean Drink Succulent Eat Ocean Drink Succulent
Head to Mamasita to embrace the earth's liquid bounty with an agave and seafood feast. We're talking water-based fruits and vegetables, seafood, water birds, tequila, mescal and agua frescas.

Mejilonnes y Movida Mejilonnes y Movida
Tasmania’s Spring Bay mussels will be getting their moment in the sun as the stars of a terrace lunch at Movida Acqui, complete with Moritz beers and a backdrop of the dome of the Supreme Court.

Sea and Spirit: Fish for Whisky with Whisky and Alement Sea and Spirit: Fish for Whisky with Whisky and Alement
You’ll be fishing on a boat with a flask of whisky tucked in your pocket and later you’ll be eating said conquered fish with the best single malts that the Islay region can throw your way. It’s an all day affair with lunch and dinner and plenty of ‘water of life’ thrown in. 


Playing matchmaker with curds and wine

The Two Masters: Sake and cheese matching at Kumo Izayaka The Two Masters: Sake and cheese matching at Kumo Izayaka
We're a little bit in love with sake at the moment – as should you be given that Japanese joints are exploding into existence every time we blink – and we are always and forever devoted to cheese. If you want to get learned on both, Will Studd (cheese wizard) and Andre Bishop (sake master – officially, it's a thing) are the gents to do the teaching.

Flemington Grazing Trail and Cellar Door Flemington Grazing Trail and Cellar Door
It's a festival within a festival! Cheese, wine and beer makers will all be flaunting their sexy wares at the Flemington Racecourse so you'll be able to stroll around, eating, drinking and watching the horsies at the same time. Win, win.


Tea and a tipple on a tram

Speakeasy Cocktail Tram 
Speakeasy Cocktail Tram
We went to this last year and we can guarantee you there is nothing finer than puttering round St Kilda on that vintage tramcar watching the most refined cocktail makers in the city attempt to pour your daiquiris without falling over. Run, don't walk for this one.

The Tea Cocktail Synthesis 
The Tea Cocktail Synthesis
Tea boss Hannah Dupree doesn't mess around when it comes to tea. She stocks some of the finest leaves going at her Collingwood tea shop/cocktail bar and during the festival she'll be teaching you how to turn your afternoon cuppa into an evening party starter with a tea cocktail class.


Feasting on the bounty of the sea

Turning Japanese Turning Japanese
The lauded owner and chef of Auckland's Cocoro restaurant, Makoto Tokuyama, is joining forces with Daniel Wilson and the Huxtable crew to prepare a seven course Japanese degustation for MFWF.

Saigon Sally and Hanoi Hannah at the Nha Trang Yacht Club Saigon Sally and Hanoi Hannah at the Nha Trang Yacht Club
Hawker stalls. All Sunday. On a St Kilda roof. We need say very little else about this event given that you likely already know and love the Saigon Sally/ Hanoi Hannah crew, but just for good measure we’ll tell you that there’s also live music and flirty tropical cocktails.

The Foodscray Race at Lentil As Anything The Foodscray Race at Lentil As Anything
Footscrazy, the suburb that just won’t quit being eccentric and awesome, is doing what it does best. Their event is the Amazing Race: soup edition. In teams, you’ll have to orienteer your way through the markets and find the ingredients to finish three different styles of soup from various nations. Love it.

Dinner at the Cinema, Abbotsford Convent Dinner at the Cinema, Abbotsford Convent
We've always been huge fans of the Abbotsford Convent and even more so of watching movies there under the stars, so we're all about chucking a two-course seafood dinner, canapés and drinks into the mix. The movie will be water themed but we can't tell you what it is. Because we don't know. Fingers crossed for Waterworld, though.

Are You Game? To Get Hooked on Real Food and Wine Are You Game? To Get Hooked on Real Food and Wine
‘Are you Game? to Get Hooked on Real Food and Wine' is one of MFWF's most popular lunch events. Spanning an entire Saturday you will help procure, prepare and then feast on food from the river and sea. There will be fly-fishing lessons and three-course lunch with matched wines. Plus wild food preparation demonstrations. Hello, life skills!

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 details

Around Melbourne, Melbourne 3000

Date 28 Feb 2014-16 Mar 2014

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