In just over one week the best food festival in the country kicks off, the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. It’s held from 16 to 19 November 2017 will see over 60 culinary superstars host 50 epic events in 25 extraordinary locations in the Margaret River region.
Let’s take a look at what’s new and what not to miss:
1. No GEMS!!
That’s right folks, at the Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate you can tap and go using your own Visa, Mastercard or AMEX – no need to get a GEM plastic card and top it up. Then find a cashier and top it up some more. Just normal tap and go paywave. Alleluia! The Village is cashless this year, so make sure you bring your own plastic to pay with. This makes me so happy.
2. High life – helicopter to secret location
Everyone loves a secret location. Throw in a scenic helicopter ride and a foraging expedition with renowned local chef Paul Iskov, a true culinary talent from Fervor, and this will be one event you’ll never forget.
I’ve been fortunate to go foraging with Paul “Yoda” Iskov in the Kimberley and it’s a magical experience. Paul and his team from Fervor connect with local Aboriginal elders and with them, go out onto country to learn about the native ingredients and food of the traditional owners, the most ancient culture on the planet. Paul forages under their guidance and respects the land just as their ancestors have done for 40,000 years. It’s a privilege to witness and completely fascinating.
That aside, Paul, 33, is an award-winning chef whose CV that reads like the who’s-who of the culinary world. He’s worked under renowned chef Hadleigh Troy of Restaurant Amuse and has done stints at some of Australia’s best restaurants including Tetsuya’s, Quay, Becasse, Vu De Monde and Marque.
Further afield, Paul has worked in revered overseas kitchens including Coi in San Francisco, Eleven Madison Park in New York, Test Kitchen in Cape town, Pujol in Mexico City, with Alex Atala at D.O.M in San Paulo and under René Redzepi at Noma in Copenhagen, the latter ranked the Best Restaurant in the World in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Paul has the pedigree to be arrogant but he’s the complete opposite – a humble gentle human who plays a leading role in changing what Australians eat.
Only available to a select few, after disembarking from the chopper, guests will be greeted with a cocktail of native foraged ingredients, crafted by new wave mixologist Vijay Mudaliar from Singapore’s Native cocktail bar.
You’ll dine under the bright south-west sky, surrounded by the spectacular natural environment as you enjoy a meal of exquisitely-crafted dishes that embody native, local and fresh produce accompanied by Margaret River wines.
Tickets $750. Expensive yes, but an absolutely once-in-a-lifetime experience no avid foodie – especially those into native food – would want to miss. For more information about The High Life click here.
3. Dinner at Lamonts Smiths Beach with superchef Pierre Koffman
Who’s Pierre Koffmann I hear you ask? He is a legend. His restaurant in Chelsea in London, La Tante Claire, was awarded the maximum three Michelin stars (closed in 2003) and he mentored some of the best in the business including previous Gourmet Escape headline chef Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay.
Kate Lamont is a familiar name; she’s one of Western Australia’s most successful chefs, and her sleek, modern dining space at Smith’s Beach celebrates her love of fresh, local produce. Joining Kate in the kitchen for this special event is award-winning Brit chef Kirk Westaway, whose commitment to creating a harmonious interplay of tastes and textures has earned his Singaporean dining room, JAAN, the number 42 spot in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List for 2017. Enjoy a mod-euro feast featuring the very best of seasonal ingredients matched to Lamont’s famously full-bodied wines.
Tickets $280 per person. For more information about Three’s Company click here
4. Regional Flavours at Amelia Park Winery Restaraunt
I’m super excited for this event. Firstly, because I’ve not been to Amelia Park before and so many have said it’s excellent. Secondly, Matt Stone! Joining Matt Stone is his partner, rising young female chef, Jo Barrett (Oakridge Wines) who’ll prepare a special lunch showcasing the region’s finest flavours and locally foraged ingredients at the newly opened Amelia Park Winery Restaurant. Jo and Matt will partner with the restaurant’s owners, Blair and Renee Allen for the Regional Flavours lunch on Friday 17th November.
Tickets $280. For more information about Regional Flavours at Amelia Park Winery Restaurant click here.
5. Audi Gourmet Beach BBQ with Shane Delia
Who else loves Middle Eastern food? On Sunday, behind the BBQ on the tools for both lunch and dinner is Shane Delia (Maha in Melbourne), a chef who specialises in Middle Eastern flavours. Does he look familiar? Probably, he has his own show on TV, Shane Delia’s Spice Journey. Rick Stein will also join Shane on Sunday evening for a Q&A as the sun sets on another epic festival.
The Beach BBQ is always a crowd favourite and sold out completely last year, so the organisers added extra sessions this year.
Included is privileged access to Castle Rock Beach, which is just such a stunning setting with the teepee style tents right on the sand, cocktail and canapés on arrival, free-flowing beer and wine and – last but not least – a feast of help-yourself gourmet BBQ delights. There’s a band too so you can dance the day or night away as you soak up the laid-back beach vibe of this strikingly beautiful A Class Reserve within the Meelup Regional Park. Not only is it heaps of fun, but it’s one of the very few opportunities to enjoy dinner, drinks and a party on the sand.
Tickets $225. For more info about the Audi Gourmet Beach BBQ, click here.
6. At the Gourmet Village
See no.1 above for no GEMS!
New to the Gourmet Village restaurant line up with tasty dishes from $8 to $12:
- Lucky Chan’s (Perth) – I love their udon noodle soups in Perth
- Má Là Dumplings (Margaret River) – seriously the best dumplings ever made with top quality local produce. Watch that homemade chilli sauce, she’s hot alright!
Also new is the World’s Best Chef’s Table. Meet and eat with some of the World’s Top 50 Chefs. Hosted by acclaimed food writer Jill Dupleix, guests can savour a glass of the region’s best wine alongside 2017 Best Female Chef Ana Ros, Alex Atala (one of my chef heros), David Thompson and Ashley Palmer-Watts as they create a dish using WA produce, then tuck in and enjoy the meal together. Tickets $80.
Make your own gin! New this year, you can enrol in Giniversity where you’ll learn the art of gin making and go away with your very own 100ml bottle. How many people can say that they’ve made their own gin? Tickets $85.
Lurpak Cookery School is new this year where you’ll be hands-on cooking with one of my all time favourites, chef Tony Howell. Chef Tone carved a name for himself as one of the country’s best during his 15-year tenure at Cape Lodge. He’ll be holding 30-minute cooking classes all weekend at the village using Lurpak’s premium butter – be sure to book in as soon as you get there or get a ticket in advance, just $10. And you get to eat what you cook. Winning!
Jack Stein (Born to Cook) and world surfing legend Taj Burrow present the best of ‘after surf food’ paired with brews from Honest Ale. Honest Ale is Taj’s own label launched earlier this year with surfing mates Dino Adrian and Jay Davies. The lads will bring their international travels to the stage using local produce to create global favourites with a local twist. I love Taj and never thought I’d see him on a cooking stage – he’s a character and so is Jack Stein. I interviewed Jack last year and I’m telling you, he has so many funny stories. This should be a laugh.
Calling Coffee Nerds: This new free event, the Karvan Coffee’s Coffee Acadamy will teach you things about coffee you didn’t know. And it’s free! But you need to book a spot.
Butcher’s Block -learn about cuts of meat: I love this and it’s free! Meat and Livestock Australia presents The Butcher’s Block in association with Food Network where you’ll learn from two previous MasterChef contestants and Food Network TV presenters Andy Allen and Ben Milbourne
Natural wine – Everyone’s into natural this, organic that (yours truly included, and no, I’m not a hipster) and wine is no exception. Learn about wild fermentation and natural winemaking as you swirl and sniff at the Masters and Makers sessions; check the website for details.
Free entry for kids under 12 to the Gourmet Village all weekend – another first – and there’ll be plenty of activities in the Kids Corner, which will be jam-packed with educational foodie entertainment.
For more information on this year’s Margaret River Gourmet Escape visit www.gourmetescape.com.au.