Pat Nourse walks us through fine dining's night of nights, and the pre- and post-awards festivities.
The votes are in and all eyes are on Melbourne ahead of Wednesday night when the city hosts the World's 50 Best Restaurant awards. Ahead of the big reveal, we asked GT's managing editor and chief restaurant critic, Pat Nourse, who is chair of the voting panel for Oceania and Australasia, for the inside word on what will go down.
You're about to head down to Melbourne for the World's 50 Best Restaurants ceremony. Who are you most looking forward to seeing?
The details of who's actually coming are a closely guarded secret - even we don't know who'll be there till we see them at the awards. Or just walking down the street in Melbourne. Hey look, it's the Roca brothers doing laybacks at Heartbreaker! Is that Alain Passard trying to jump the queue at Lune? And I'm sure that's Heston Blumenthal behind the bar at Gerald's, spinning ska records.
Oh, and Brae was notable in its absence from the 51 to 100 list released in the lead-up to the awards. It débuted at 87, then last year it was 65, so I'd like to think that it has maintained that trajectory, and that we'll see Dan Hunter up on the stage this year.
Are you packing anything special in your suitcase? Nunchucks? A hangover cure?
Nunchucks are my hangover cure. Dancing shoes? Check. Elastic-sided eating pants? Check. Party frock? Check. Smiling face? Check.
In one word, how much of a big deal is this for Melbourne?
How does the big reveal actually work - is there a chance of an Oscars-style mix-up? Who's in charge of the envelopes?
The magic that is Mark Durden-Smith does the actual announcing. He's consistently hilarious, especially when it comes to trying to pronounce names like Die Schwarzwaldstube, Martin Berasategui, and White Rabbit, but he is in himself a living tradition and a beautiful piece of continuity, having started with the awards in London a decade ago. He's more famous back in the UK for hosting morning television and game shows, so it's hard to know what they made of him in New York last year. It's a bit like getting Larry Emdur to host the Oscars. He's a genius.
Aside from the awards themselves, what's your favourite part of the World's 50 Best circus?
All the events that have sprung up around it independently. The official program is great - this year it'll be better than ever - but there's much to be said for seeing Rosio Sanchez and René Redzepi flipping tacos at The Clove Club in London at one o'clock in the morning, or seeing Eleven Madison Park, Manhattan's fanciest restaurant, turning into a raging dance-floor, with Questlove DJing and the Cristal popping. God only knows how they got those ceilings clean in time for lunch service.
Tell us about the yum cha eventGT is hosting after the awards.
Personally I'm as excited about this as the awards themselves. Back when I first got involved with the 50 Best in 2006, the tradition in London was to follow the night of the awards with a lunch for the chefs and chairpeople at St John - it was very casual, and I liked the fact it gave everyone visiting from all over the world a unique taste of the host city. In recent years the line-up of events has varied, but this year we're really bringing back the spirit of those early days with the send-off we're doing the morning after the awards.
How do you show the world's 50 best chefs a good time the morning after the biggest event on the global restaurants calendar? How do you put them back on their feet and onto their planes with a song in their heart? What better than the national sport of Australia - yum cha? And to give it a real Melbourne twist, we've enlisted the help of Flower Drum, Anchovy, Ricky & Pinky, Lee Ho Fook, Spice Temple and Long Chim to put the focus on the best Australian native ingredients. Hello, abalone spring rolls. Throw in a few beers, some great Australian wine and - possibly a world-first for yum cha - some incredible coffee, and you're looking at the hottest ticket in town. GT does yum cha in style.
Which chef is most likely to party the hardest?
There's no partying like partying when you're number one.