This month, Food for Thought is holding dinners in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with the likes of Jo Barrett and Peter Gunn shaking the pans in the name of improving mental health in the food industry. Started by young chef Mal Meiers in 2014, Food for Thought has grown from a single dinner attended by 35 people in Melbourne to multiple events that raise tens of thousands of dollars and attract some of the biggest names in the business. All money goes towards mental health charities, including R U OK? and Lifeline.
"It gets to a point where pretty much everybody knows somebody [with mental health concerns] or they've experienced it themselves," Meiers says. "It's very relevant."
This year's month of dinners features chefs from the likes of Gerard's Bistro and Otto in Brisbane; Ides, Oakridge and Sunda in Victoria; and Aria, Icebergs and Quay for the Sydney event. At that dinner, young chefs from these establishments will recreate a dish by one of their mentors and serve it as a canapé.
"We're going to recreate a dish that we've cooked time and time again with these guys at these restaurants," Meiers says.
The chef – who's currently heading up the kitchen at Newcastle's Subo – will team up with Bennelong's Rob Cockerill to turn a dish of butter-poached quail with Davidson's plum and macadamia into yakitori.
Diners at the Brisbane and Melbourne events can expect a sit-down dinner with a course cooked by each of the chefs who are lending their time to the cause. All produce for the events is donated by the likes of Fraser Island Spanner Crab, Bass Strait Beef and Flinders Island Meat.
So far, funds raised have gone towards developing a short course with R U OK? and Allara Learning that's tailored to the hospitality industry and helps people identify when their workmates may be experiencing mental health problems.
The future of the events looks bright, with Meiers wanting to go beyond restaurants and focus on the farmers and producers who often work in greater isolation than chefs while struggling with difficulties like drought and unpredictable export markets.
Top-notch food and an important cause? This ticks all the boxes.
If you need support, contact Lifeline (13 11 14, lifeline.org.au) or Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467, suicidecallbackservice.org.au).
Food for Thought Brisbane, 12 November, Billy Kart, 2-4 Edmondstone St, West End, Qld, $140 for six courses with matched wines. Tickets available from eventbrite.com.au.
Food for Thought Sydney, 19 November, The Rooftop, cnr Illawarra Rd and Marrickville Rd, Marrickville, NSW, $140 for eight canapés and drinks. Tickets available from eventbrite.com.au.
Food for Thought Melbourne, 26 November, Ides, 92 Smith St, Collingwood, Vic, $160 for seven courses with matched wines. Tickets available from eventbrite.com.au.