Every year, Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (MFWF) recognises trailblazers in Victoria’s food and drink scene by inducting them into the MFWF Legends Hall of Fame.
In a year that’s spun the hospo industry on its head, the festival’s creative director Pat Nourse says it’s more important than ever to honour these locals for their contributions.
Eight new legends (and one “honorary” one) today join the ranks of Ben Shewry (Attica); Anthony Lui (Flower Drum); food authority Stephanie Alexander; winemaker Garry Crittenden; Hana Assafiri (Moroccan Soup Bar, Speed Date a Muslim); and 150 others.
“This year’s legends [are] a diverse bunch of hospitality talent – you’ve got a butcher, a chef who’s always gone her own way, people who’ve revolutionised booze,” Nourse tells Broadsheet. “They really speak to the importance of hospitality as part of the fabric of the city and the state, and Australian society in general.”
Influential chef and restaurateur Tansy Good has been acknowledged for championing local growers and producers long before it was the norm, beginning with her eponymous restaurant, Tansy’s, in the ’80s. She’s also mentored other industry game-changers, such as Andrew McConnell and his brother Matt McConnell (Bar Lourinhã); pastry guru Philippa Sibley; and celebrity chef Karen Martini.
“A lot of these [legends] did things that we take for granted now ... things that we’re used to, but didn’t happen by accident. These people had to forge those paths and do the work first,” Nourse says.
There’s also fourth-generation butcher Gary McBean, of Prahran Market stall Gary’s Quality Meats. He’s worked at a butcher shop for 50 of his 60 years, and he now supplies meat to Attica, Il Bacaro, Maker & Monger, Leonardo’s Pizza Palace and more.
Nino Pangrazio and the late Sisto Malaspina, of coffee institution Pellegrini’s, have also been honoured as local heroes. After taking over the now-iconic business (one of the first in Melbourne to install an espresso machine) in 1974, Pangrazio retired last November, a year after Malaspina lost his life in the 2018 Bourke Street attack.
“It’s a beautiful story with a tragic ending, but I don’t think the tragedy should and would be the thing that defines Melbourne’s memory of these two men,” Nourse says. “It’ll be their incredible hospitality.”
Other legends include Jessica and Paul Ghaie, the siblings who started Blackhearts & Sparrows in 2006. Fourteen years later, the bottle shop chain has 10 stores in Melbourne, outposts in Hobart and Canberra, and nationwide delivery.
“They really changed the way we buy booze in Australia,” Nourse says. “Even though the knowledge and professionalism that underpins everything they do is A-grade … they’ve done so much to remind everyone that wine is supposed to be fun.”
Under the communicator and educator banner, veteran broadcaster Cam Smith has been recognised for making Melbourne’s food scene more accessible and giving a voice to people from all corners of the industry – from big-name chefs to stallholders – through his 3RRR show Eat It, which has been on the air since 1987.
The trailblazer award – given to someone 40 years old or younger – went to Free to Feed co-founder Loretta Bolotin. The social enterprise she started with her husband gives refugees and asylum seekers employment opportunities in hospitality.
“What she does in her work is maybe the most important understanding of hospitality – using it to help people find their place at the table and in Australian society in a way that celebrates the culture they bring with them and the culture they’ve grown up with,” says Nourse.
Former MFWF deputy chair and board member Kevin Luscombe has been named an honorary legend. Nourse credits him for giving the festival the ambition and wide scope it has today, as well as for championing events that can be accessed at any level or pricepoint.
The festival has recognised legends every year since its inception in 1993. Current legends nominate their peers, while a panel chaired by food editor, writer and cookbook author Jill Dupleix sorts and finalises the awardees.