Between the 80-hour weeks, weekend trade, early morning forages and all those avos that need smashing, hospitality workers struggle to find time to look at the bigger picture. But a new symposium, GROW Assembly, aims to share some hard-won industry knowledge via a lineup of industry heavy-hitters.
Put together by Bar Liberty’s Michael Bascetta and Banjo Harris Plane (both formerly of Attica), Meira Harel (The Town Mouse), Manu Potoi (Rockwell and Sons) and Vicky Symington (Proud Mary), GROW follows in the footsteps of Ben Shewry’s 2014 WaW Gathering and René Redzepi’s upcoming MAD Symposium in Sydney.
“We all work really hard, and you can lose sight of why you’re doing it, and who you’re doing it for,” says Bascetta. “Events like this really bring people together who are like-minded and are working just as hard as you on the other side of the world or next door. You definitely draw inspiration from one another.”
The list of speakers includes Rockpool Est. 1989 master sommelier Sebastian Crowther; wine writer Max Allen; Brae’s Dan Hunter; Leon Kennedy of B’Stilla and Little Hop; Ashley Huntington of Two Metre Tall Farm; founder of wine publication Alquimie, Josh Elias; baker at De Superette in Belgium, Sarah Lemke; Kevin Donovan of Donovan’s; mushroom grower Ryan Creed and Angie Giannakodakis of Epocha and Elyros.
Proud Mary’s owner, famed barista champ and all-round good dude Nolan Hirte will speak to the assembly about the realities of coffee culture.
“There are a lot of baristas in Melbourne now, there are a lot of coffee people,” Hirte says. “But I’d say a lot of them don’t really understand where it comes from. They work with it every day of their life, but they don’t see the true value behind it. It’s not about how to make a latte. It’s about understanding coffee’s nature, how things work, moving with the seasons and appreciating where it came from.”
Bascetta hopes that the event, which will be followed by smaller specialist workshops throughout the year, will encourage younger hospitality professionals to up the ante.
“Given the amount of cuts by governments in funding TAFE and hospitality courses, and the huge skills shortage, we’re already having issues now finding skilled chefs to fill the places we’re opening,” he says. “GROW is a good platform to bring the younger hospitality professional in and show them what they could potentially do with their career.”
Apart from getting educated, attendees will have their day fully catered – though Bascetta won’t reveal which Melbourne chef is plating up: “It’s someone pretty big.”
GROW Assembly takes place on Sunday May 1. Tickets go on sale Monday April 4 for $125 at growassembly.com.au