Taste of Sydney has hit the reset button for its 2018 event, recruiting chef Mark Best to handpick the line-up, overhauling the format and name (it's now Taste of Sydney Collective) and relocating to Barangaroo.
Befitting its grander setting of The Cutaway, the festival is thinking big, with Sydney talent rubbing shoulders with international names such as Skye Gyngell and David Thompson, homegrown exports including Louis Tikaram (now at LA's EP & LP), and interstate guests such as Thi Le from Melbourne's Anchovy.
"We wanted balance, talent and creativity and not necessarily the normal headliners," Best says. "We did the deeper second cuts rather than just the greatest hits."
The festival centrepiece, the Collective Kitchens, will see two chefs at a time work side-by-side in two open kitchens, allowing guests to see how the magic happens. Each chef has created a brand-new dish especially for the event, so even if you've dined at Ester and Chat Thai more times than you can remember, you're guaranteed to try something new. Highlights include an aged beef brisket green curry from Chat Thai's Palisa Anderson, an octopus and bonito waffle by Ben Greeno of Hotel Centennial and master stock beef banh tieu from Annam's Jerry Mai. All have been given the Mark Best tick of approval and work together as a full menu if you're inclined to try them all.
Elsewhere, fine-dining aficionados are in for a one-off experience, with Mark Best, David Thompson and Scott Pickett teaming up to create a menu that combines past and present. The three chefs will cook dishes from their award-winning careers at Marque, Nahm and Estelle by Scott Pickett, respectively, while also sharing dishes from their new projects.
In the festival marketplace Newcastle's Choux Patisserie, kombucha outfit the Bucha of Byron and purveyors of non-alcoholic spirits Seedlip will offer samples, while Simon Johnson will also be there with a caviar cart, artisan cheeses and hard-to-find products. As you work your way through the wares on offer, tunes will be provided by Andy Garvey and Bare Islands, among others.
While the food festival space is undoubtedly a crowded one, it's refreshing to see a festival make moves in the right direction. See what the results are for yourself next month.
Taste of Sydney Collective, 8-11 November, The Cutaway Barangaroo, 1 Merriman St, Barangaroo, NSW. Tickets from $17, sydney.tastefestivals.com