Jacqui Lim has set herself a gastronomical challenge: to eat at all GT's Top 100 restaurants. Mission: improbable?
Many people set themselves challenges. Some climb mountains, some run marathons. But me? I choose the Gourmet Traveller Top 100 restaurant list. The challenge? To dine at as many restaurants on the list as possible in any given year. It's gruelling work, but someone has to do it. It takes focus, commitment, stamina and a good metabolism. It's not for the weak, in other words. It's my version of extreme sport and I dine to win.
This year, I will have eaten at 94 establishments on the 2015 list. This doesn't mean I've done all 94 in one year - by my measure, if it's on the list and I've been to it in a previous year it still counts. Every year, several of the restaurants I've already been to fall off the list, so I have to claw my way back to my previous score and then push to exceed it. Back in 2008, my tally was a mere 49, so I've come a long way. In the past I would simply fit in restaurant bookings whenever I happened to be travelling. Now I plan my travel purely around getting to these restaurants.
Putting together a Top 100 trip is like planning a military operation - choosing the restaurants, finding out what's open for lunch and dinner on what days, trying to get bookings (ensuring an early lunch so I'm hungry enough for dinner), and then it's flights, accommodation, car hire, and booking in friends to dine with me. It's exhausting, but oh-so satisfying.
It's not unusual for me to fly somewhere on a Saturday morning, do four Top 100s in two days and be back in time for work on a Monday morning. Once I did eight Top 100s in nine days in New South Wales and Victoria. And I don't just do an entrée or a main course - I go for the full meal with as many courses that are on offer.
You can imagine my nervous excitement when the new list comes out every year - it's a huge day for me. What's on? What's off? What's my starting tally? How many restaurants do I need to get to? Where will I be travelling to?
The 2016 list will be the one - the one where I'll finally be able to say I've been to all 100, and nothing's going to stop me! And then, for a brief moment, I will feel that my life is complete... that is, until the next list. Some may call it obsessive and, yes, it probably is.
And so is collecting a business card from every restaurant I eat at - a collection that now contains well over 800 cards.
My food obsession runs deep. I moved to Adelaide from Hobart in 2007 and completed a Master of Arts in Gastronomy through Le Cordon Bleu at the University of Adelaide. I love to cook whenever I get the chance. People are often fascinated with my ongoing dining quest, so this year I started a blog to document and share my food adventures: jacquisfoodfetish.com.au. There you can keep track of my Top 100 progress and read my reviews.
I figure that, over the years, I've been to at least 180 Top 100 restaurants, given at least 10 I've already been to drop off the list each year. Am I the only person who takes on the Top 100 with such determination?
I suspect there are plenty more obsessives out there like me. I'd love to see who else takes their passion for restaurants to the same level.
Working my way through the Top 100 lists, I can honestly say I've never had a bad dining experience.
Of course, there have been some meals I've enjoyed more than others - three of my most memorable are Momofuku Seiobo, Orana, and Brae - but overall, I'm grateful that the list provides me with a sense of purpose and enables me to dine at the best restaurants across the country.
Now, about that 2016 GT Restaurant Guide Top 100 list…