The always-fierce competition for tickets to Melbourne Food and Wine Festival's MasterClass program, which offers opportunities to watch, learn and taste from the best, could reach Hunger Games levels this year.
Following the announcement that The World's 50 Best Restaurants ceremony will be held in Melbourne in early April 2017, the Festival changed its usual early March slot to coincide with the announcement and the juggernaut of international chefs, writers and publicity that accompanies it. MasterClass 2017 is doing its bit with all eight presenting chefs (with one still to be announced) either current or past 50 Best-ers. Expect frenzy at the very least.
Hottest ticket status may go to Chicago chef Grant Achatz, who currently holds 15 place on the 50 Best list. Achatz is a chef who's managed to keep molecular gastronomy interesting and relevant at his restaurant Alinea, which opened in 2005 and has collected a trophy cabinet full of awards, including a three Michelin star rating. Achatz is famous for dishes like his floating green apple helium balloon, but is equally clocked for an innovative approach to the industry, such as his restaurant Next, which changes cuisine every four months, and his use of the ticketing system Tock, which charges diners up-front for their meal, like tickets to the theatre.
Another American on the all-male line-up is Wylie Dufresne, chef and owner of now-closed wd-50 and Alder restaurants in New York City and recently dubbed "New York's hottest free agent chef" by Eater.com. It'll be interesting to learn whether his latest venture, a doughnut and coffee shop in Brooklyn, will feature the innovative molecular techniques that won him acclaim.
Mexico's Jorge Vallejo, whose vegetable-heavy Mexico City restaurant Quintonil is currently the highest rated restaurant in the country and number 12 on the 50 Best list will rub shoulders with Gastón Acurio, a national hero in Peru, credited for increasing international awareness of Peruvian food through his more than 40 restaurants in 13 countries. Acurio's restaurant Astrid y Gastón, which is set in a 300-year-old hacienda in Lima, is at number 30 on The 50 Best list.
Regular Melbourne visitor and executive chef at Dinner By Heston (both in Melbourne and in London) Ashley Palmer-Watts is also in the mix, as is Italy's entertaining Carlo Cracco, who hosts Italian MasterChef and whose Milan restaurant Cracco is renowned for its innovative take on classic Italian cuisine.
David Thompson's Bangkok restaurant Nahm is currently at 37 on the 50 Best list and Melburnians may be praying that Thompson's presence at the MasterClass series might coincide with the opening of a local version of Long Chim, his Thai street food chain that already has outlets in Perth and Sydney.
MasterClass 2017 is sticking with the more flexible ticketing system introduced last year that allows punters access to individual sessions rather than committing to a whole day of sessions. Tickets come in two forms, the entry-level Watch and Learn ($35 per session) or Taste and Learn ($95 per session) that includes tables in close proximity to the stage, two tasting plates and wine.
Either way, be prepared. The fight for MasterClass 2017 tickets will be real.
MasterClass runs from 1-2 April 2017 at Deakin Edge, Federation Square. Tickets on sale 25 November via mfwf.com.au.
Gourmet Traveller is the proud media partner of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.