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The benefits of live yoghurt
23.03.2017

Step away from the “dessert yoghurt", writes Will Studd. The real unadulterated thing is much more rewarding.

All-Star Yum Cha
22.03.2017

What happens the morning after the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards? We treat the chefs to a world-beating yum cha session, as Dani Valent discovers.

Honey Fingers, Melbourne's inner-city beekeepers
22.03.2017

Single-source honey putting community and sustainability next to sweetness.

Vermouth is having a moment
21.03.2017

More and more adventurous local winemakers are embracing Vermouth's botanicals, writes Max Allen.

Exploring Indonesia's Komodo National Park
21.03.2017

Indonesia's Komodo National Park is home to staggering scenery and biodiversity. Michael Harden sets sail in a handcrafted yacht to explore its remote islands in pared-back luxury.

The new cruises on the horizon in 2017
21.03.2017

Cue the Champagne.

Seven recipes that shaped 1980s fine dining
21.03.2017

Australia saw some bold moves in the ’80s, and we’re not just talking hairstyles. Greater cultural references started peppering the menus of our restaurants, and home-grown ingredients won a new appreciation. The dining scene was coming of age and a new band of pioneers led the charge.

Where Melbourne's finest will take the World's Best Chefs
20.03.2017

Leading chefs descend on Melbourne in April for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We asked local hospitality folk who they’d abduct for the day and where they’d take them to show off their city. There may be coffee, there may be culture, but in the end it’s cocktails.

2015 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival recap

Natalie O'Brien

Natalie O'Brien

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival CEO, Natalie O'Brien, talks to Michael Harden about this year's highlights.

Natalie O'Brien has been home one night in the past 18, but she shows no sign of fatigue. In fact, she's exhilarated. The CEO of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival has just overseen her 13th festival and, in her mind, "probably the most successful one yet". "One of the things we've always managed to do well is showcase regional Victoria and at the same time celebrate things that are quintessentially Melbourne," says O'Brien.

"This is overlaid by the international guests coming here, not just to talk about what it is they do, but also collaborating with people here, which makes us truly global. I think all that intersected at the right place and the right time this year."

O'Brien is already well into planning festival 2016, which she says will "continue with the conversations that we started" about topics ranging from food security, safety and sustainability to increasing the engagement with artisan growers and producers in South East Asia, as well as increasing the reach of the festival beyond the 300,000-plus people who attended this year by running more events online and live-streaming.

She squirms when we ask her to name her top five events from this year's program. "Naming just five events is really hard," she says.

"I've heard so many stories, witnessed so many great collaborations, have gathered so much information." We didn't let her off that easily though and so here are her 2015 festival highlights.

1 Theatre of Ideas: Dan Barber
We'd waited many years to host Dan Barber [the award-winning chef from New York's Blue Hill and author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food] and his radical-yet-practical vision for a better, more sustainable and less damaging way to combine good food and good farming was an ideal fit for the kind of conversations we're having at the MFWF. Even better, his connections with people here like Joost Bakker [enviro-designer and radical florist] and farmers and producers who attended this event means that there will be an ongoing global collaboration around the issues Barber brings to the table.

2 Langham Melbourne Masterclass: The Essentials
Masterclass has always been popular, but many people were missing out because they were unable to commit to a whole day. So we broke it into components so people could sign up to one class, where they could learn to do one thing really well. We had Johnny Di Francesco [of 400 Gradi] sharing the secrets behind his award-winning pizze and learned that you can make friends with salad if you follow Matt Wilkinson's lead. We saw more first-timers this year, with more than 40 per cent of attendees being newcomers.

3 Quintessentially Melbourne
This year, we decided to knock on the doors of some institutions we haven't worked with before. It was a way to bring important thinkers with a different perspective on food together for the night. We had the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra perform at Cutler & Co, while a collaboration between Prix Fixe's Phillippa Sibley and milliner Richard Nylon, who matched hats with her Alice in Wonderland-inspired food, saw the MFWF and the Melbourne Fashion Festival join forces for the first time. We also held events at the State Library, the Jewish Museum and the National Gallery, all of which were sellouts.

4 Global Chef AND Wine Dinners
This is our home and away game, where chefs from all over the world bring their own sense of place to Melbourne. There's so much potential for the cross-pollination of ideas. This year, the dinners included Canadian chef Jeremy Charles, who brought a sense of Newfoundland to Woodland House, and Ruth Rogers, of The River Cafe in London, teaming up with Neil Perry [for the GT reader dinner at Rosetta].

5 Return to Terroir
Return to Terroir brought together nearly 40 natural and biodynamic winemakers from all over the world. I hosted the arrival party where the team did a barbecue using great Victorian produce. All I could hear was French, Italian, Spanish and German voices having conversations about their wine and soil and terroir, and I thought, wow, this is what it's all about.

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