Lets be honest – we have always punched above our weight in the culinary stakes down here in the antipodes. And Melbourne’s reputation as a serious culinary destination can not be questioned. Many visiting international chefs hat I have had the joy of meeting have further cemented that thought in my mind.
The S.Pellegrino World’s top 100 was announced overnight in London. I am thrilled to see my buddy Ben Shewry from Attica at number 32 and whilst it is a drop from last year’s number 21 spot, it is still an incredible achievement. The only other Australian restaurant to come anywhere in the top 100 is Sydney’s Quay with chef Peter Gilmore at the helm.
So I have a bug up my arse about this… this list is not really doing us any favours. Australia has some incredible chefs at the helms of some fantastically talented kitchens, but geography I think is causing us some concern. Because we are so far away from any regular or rigorous judging opportunities, we cant play with the big kids in the sandboxes of the US and Europe. The rise and rise of Sth American restaurants on the list also shows how close that region is to judging and therefore benefit from their inclusion in the list.
Ben Shewry is an incredible talent and absolutely deserves to be on this list, as does Pete Gilmore. Why are the rest ignored? Why is there no more representation? Who are the judges and who do they represent?
Brisbane’s food culture and growth is on fire at present, demonstrated by the recent move of Jake Nicholson who has departed Melbourne to open in Brisbane. Ryan Squires is at the only three hatted restaurant in Brisbane (Esq and Esquire) and should be on the list. His food is spectacular. Then there are those chefs who nobody really knows, apart from those in the industry, who will never appear on the list. They have not done a Masterchef spot or been a guest on the other reality food program and so they are not known. So they are not under consideration.
From my size, most can determine that I am partial to a good feed and a slurp or two of wine. I also have had the luxury of eating at some of the finest establishments this country has. I am constantly, pleasantly surprised at the level of skill and talent we have here on our very own doorstep.
It begs the question – at what point will we be recognised as a serious player in the global food scene when only two of our most incredible restaurants can make such a list? We have one of the best festivals going around – that has seen guests from every one of the top ten (from my memory) restaurants make their way down here to be a part of, along with many others who are not on the list.
The global food scene is better because we are in it and it is in some part due to people like Ben Shewry, who has spent considerable time and effort in trumpeting his skills and those of his fellow Aussies on the international stage.
Aaron Turner is also playing on this stage – currently in Tennessee. Brett Graham at The Ledbury in London (voted number ten last night) is a lad from Newcastle. We have seen many Aussies at the stoves and elsewhere in some of the better restaurants across the globe. Dan Hunter at Brae (formerly of Mugaritz in Spain voted at number 6 last night) has a fine pedigree and has worked with some of the best. Shane Osbourne – a Perth lad, earned Michelin recognition at Pied a Terre in London. I am sure there are literally hundreds of chefs I know who have been in kitchens placed in the top 100 last night. Even Heston Blumenthal, whose Dinner in London came in at number 5 last night, has seen how important we are by bringing The Fat Duck to Melbourne for a six month sojourn at the end of the year.
I am not sure that we should place too much faith in these Northern Hemisphere centric awards – only for the fact that I get frustrated with the results every time – just for the lack of Aussies who deserve to be there in the mix. Needless to say I am probably being a bit parochial but its time we paid less heed to these awards and celebrated those that are successful.