Forget Moomba. In food-obsessed Melbourne, March means one thing: the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, and this year the organisers have amped the already hyped event up a notch or 10 by capitalising on The World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards coming to town.
The hugely influential World's 50 Best will be presented in the middle of the festival on 5 April at the Royal Exhibition Building, bringing a swag of international culinary superstars to Melbourne.
A bit like the Golden Globes running headlong into the Oscars, the overlap of the two events has resulted in this year's program of international chef collaborations featuring local heroes teaming up with chefs featured on the World's Best.
"The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival has been fortunate enough to host 36 chefs whose restaurants have featured on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list over its 14-year history and we're always delighted when Festival alumni break into the 50," says festival director Natalie O'Brien. "Virgilio Martnez Véliz was all but unknown in Australia when he was a guest of MFWF in 2013 and he's now at number four in the world. We have our fingers crossed for him to make the top three!"
The Lake House's Alla Wolf-Tasker will be teaming up with Vladimir Mukhim of Russia's White Rabbit (current ranking at number 18) for a dinner exploring modern Russian cuisine. Wolf-Tasker, who also has Russian heritage, says the dinner will show that the ties that bind are stronger than any geographical divide. "For anyone who travelled in the Soviet Union, the idea that any culinary goodness can come out of there will be extraordinary, but the whole ethos of growing your own, of preserving, and fermenting, is close to the Russian heart."
O'Brien says some of the collaborations were a natural fit. Guy Grossi hosted Carlo Cracco back in 2009, for instance, while Mehmet Gürs of Istanbul's Mikla is old friends with local Turks Somer Sivrioglu, Coskun Uysal and Kemal Barut.
"With Andrew McConnell and Dave Verheul (hosting Zaiyu Hasegawa, of Tokyo's Den and Wylie Dufresne, formerly of New York's wd~50) it was more a case of admiring from afar but history has shown us that even pairings of strangers often results in firm friendships."
The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival will runfrom 31 March to April, melbournefoodandwine.com.au.
Gourmet Traveller is a proud partner of The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.