Madrid Fusion. René Redzepi's MAD. Melbourne's own WAW Gathering. If it's an international food and drink think-tank or event of note, Ben Shewry has been part of it, but that doesn't mean talking in front of crowds was a skill that Attica's chef-patron was born with.
"Because of the isolation I grew up in, public speaking isn't something that came naturally to me," says the Kiwi-born chef, who was raised in a remote pocket of New Zealand's Taranaki region. "I had to overcome that when I was 19 speaking to 500 14-year-olds about being a chef, and then presenting to a mostly non-English-speaking audience of 1600 at Madrid Fusion in 2010."
This May, Shewry will cross the country to speak at WA FADS, Western Australia's first food and drink symposium, an event that aims to discuss some of the important, sometimes-unglamorous issues faced by the state's food industry. For organisers Ai-Ling Truong and Katrina Lane, Shewry's own WAW event was a major inspiration in organising WA FADS, as was the way Shewry approaches the running of Attica.
"The values and level-headedness that Ben has shown while running the best restaurant in Australia is admirable and we wanted to bring him over to share insights into how he manages everything and keeps sane," says Truong. "We will dig deep into what it means to make it in this industry."
As well as being a fan of the Perth Wildcats basketball team - "a great organisation with proper team values so I look at them for inspiration for my own restaurant team," he says - Shewry has served West Australian ingredients including marron, pearl meat and snow crabs at Attica over the past decade.
Come May, Shewry will join key Perth chefs and producers including Joel Valvasori-Pereza ( Lula La Delizia), former best new talent winner Sam Ward, Amy Hamilton ( Liberte) and organic beef farmer Warren Pensini in a day-long program of talks, presentations and workshops. If WA FADS can inspire attendees the same way WAW did (Shewry says WAW helped convince he and his wife Natalia to buy Attica), West Australia's food and drink scene has much to look forward to. Roll on May.
WA FADS, Sunday 28 May, Claremont Showgrounds, 8 Ashton Ave, Claremont, WA.
Tickets to the event are still available for $100 and include lunch, morning and afternoon tea. Tickets and additional crowd-funding rewards can be purchased at chuffed.org/project/fads.