For anyone involved in the wonderful world of food and wine in Melbourne, March is often manic as The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival descends on the city...much to the delight of foodies and imbibers, such as myself, across the state.
The Festival brings with it a host of international chefs - including my mate and mentor Phil Howard - and many other chefs that I hope to catch up with or maybe just catch a glimpse of! Having so many world renowned chefs in my home town is not only rare, but also inspiring.
For more than a week we'll have Phil Howard and his Junior Sous Chef Mark Kempson cooking in our kitchen, which is such a great opportunity to show our team what it means to work at a two star Michelin level. A few of the boys in the kitchen have worked overseas, but for those who haven't, it'll be like working in one of London's best kitchens, alongside one of the country's best chefs. That's the standard I've come from and one I want my team to understand.
I suppose the major difference between Australian and European kitchens would probably be the "intensity" that exists in most great kitchen's you step into. The brigade seems to be more focused, a little bit more dedicated and normally work a lot more hours than we do here!
I'd say that overseas most of the guys are exposed to more early on and have opportunities that unfortunately just don't exist in Oz. That's why it's so important for us to bring international chefs out here and support Australia's next generation of chefs...
The Festival also gives us a chance to get the best out of our events team. This year, we're hosting a range of events: a seven-course degustation gala dinner (The Point Gets Squared); a NZ vs. OZ wine match (The Bledisloe) and a lakeside family BBQ (The Family Fair Day). That means we have to organise everything - from premium international wines and West Australian marron to a Maori hakka team, face painters and jumping castles. We're really putting their organisation skills to the test this month, but I've got complete confidence we'll pull it off without a hitch!
We are also hosting a special chef's industry dinner, cooked by Phil and ex-square boys that are now living and working in Melbourne, so a pretty special event also...we don't really have the time to all catch up these days very often, so it should be lots of fun, great banter and probably a few quiet beers enjoyed afterwards!
For me and the team, March also means Grand Prix. This curious mix of food, wine and fast cars (three of my favourite things) often leaves us satisfied and exhausted, carrying a few more kilos and a hearing a little less, but also saying "bring on April"...