November 16-18, 2018
I’d heard so much about Margaret River Gourmet Escape (MRGE) and it had been on my bucket list for a while, so imagine how excited I was to be there for the event from November 16-18, 2018. Margaret River is a three-hour drive from Perth and this was the 7th edition of MRGE.
Double the excitement when I found out who was going to be there too. Nigella Lawson, British cookbook author and host of Nigella Kitchen, Tetsuya Wakuda of Tetsuya’s (Sydney) and Waku Ghin (Singapore), one of my favourite Japanese chefs, Jake Kellie the Master of Smoke & Fire at Burnt Ends (Singapore) and celebrity chefs from UK, USA, Singapore, Mexico, France and Denmark.
This year, there were over 45 events happening in 25 locations in Margaret River, including the iconic Gourmet Beach BBQ and Leeuwin Estate Gourmet Village to Feast In The Forest, Sunset, Beats & Bites, Fraser Gallop Estate Long Lunch and Dining By Twilight at Margaret River’s Secret Garden.
I couldn’t wait to be up close and personal with the chefs who also included Rick Stein (UK), Mitch Orr (Acme, Sydney) and Matt Stone (Oakridge Wines, Australia), Skye Gyngell (Spring, UK), Monica Galetti (Mere, UK), Niki Nakayama (n/naka, USA), Andrew Wong (UK), Alex Atala (D.O.M., Brazil), Edgar Núñez (SUD 777, Mexico), Rosio Sánchez (Hija de Sanchez, Denmark) and James Lowe (Lyle’s, UK).
|As the sun sets, the beach barbecue starts to warm up|
|Wadandi Cultural Custodian Josh Whiteland playing a tune on the didgeridoo|
|Chefs cooking for chefs and visitors at the Castle Rock beach barbecue|
Canapes were served, along with free flow of bubbly, wines, beer and soft drinks. The weather was fine but the brisk wind proved a tad chilly, so most of us huddled around tables set up under the tents for protection.
The beach barbecue amplified the Aussie love for barbies. But here, we let the chefs work while everyone else sat back and had a good time. The menu included wagyu beef sliders, kingfish poke on cassava cracker, Linley Valley pork sausages, chicken skewers, herbed dorper lamb cutlets and for dessert, we had Nigella Lawson’s Emergency Brownies and ginger wine syllabub.
|Succulent grilled Dorper lamb chops|
|Tantalising spread at the Beach Barbecue|
|New friends having fun at the Castle Rock Beach barbecue|
|With Kelli Brett, editor-director of Cuisine Magazine, Auckland|
On Friday, we had a chance to talk to some of our favourite chefs. While Nigella was fully occupied with video interviews, we hopped around for short one-on-one chit-chats with the other chefs. It felt somewhat like “speed-dating” (hahahaha!) but with the chefs.
I managed to exchange a “hello” with Tetsuya Wakuda before I spied Jake Kellie in a corner table, looking cool in a black Burnt Ends T-shirt, with tattoos on one arm.
|Long queue of cars waiting to enter Gourmet Village in Leeuwin Estate Winery|
|Gourmet Village visitors at the Chefs Amphitheatre|
|Families having a great day chilling on the lawn of Leeuwin Estate Winery|
|Aaron Carr of Yarri Restaurant speaking at the Regional Flavours tent|
|Aaron cooked his signature dish, Prawns With XO &and Saltbush (bushtucker plant next to plate)|
We were lucky to get tickets (courtesy of Tourism Western Australia) to The Westpac Leeuwin Estate Platinum Lounge. For A$255 (advance booking), visitors get fast-track entry, a wine-tasting glass, two glasses of Leeuwin Estate wine and sample a variety of cheeses (accompanied by crackers, cranberry jelly and sundried raisins) while Leeuwin Estate’s Dan Gedge and the kitchen team made sure the canapes and hot food did not stop coming out. At the verandah, we also had apanoramic view of the happenings on the lawn.
|This way... to Nigella's Tea Party at Howard Park|
|Selection of teas from Howard Park's Herbal Emporium|
|Bouquets of fresh flowers to give that English Garden feel|
|Crisp Potato Rings with mushroom and quail egg, cones of lemon cream, cured salmon and tapioca pearls and slow-roasted tomato tarts|
|Two of the sweet desserts|
|Nigella Lawson opens up about her career and her life|
The MRGE highlights the food and wines that the South West region of Australia is famed for and puts WA on the world tourism map. Margaret River, among the world’s top wine producing regions, is home to 217 vineyards and 187 wineries.
The annual event attracts foodies and industry folks from not only Western Australia (WA) but also the rest of the country and globally including. With the more than positive response, the organisers are now looking to expand the event next year with a 10-day programme and two additional locations: Swan River and Perth.
Thanks to Tourism Western Australia for the fabulous, memorable and gastronomic experience at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape 2018.
More information about Western Australia, Margaret River andMRGE at tourism.wa.gov.au