Diversity is something of an overused word, particularly in the case of a city as multicultural as Melbourne. But the word and the quality it denotes is inextricably linked to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF), an annual event that represents innumerable different cuisines and cultures in countless different contexts.
Celebrating its 20th year in 2012, the MFWF will take you to the suburbs of Dandenong for a World Food Fare, to Archies Creek in Gippsland for a Spanish menu with Spanish wines and flamenco dancers, and to the middle of the city for a master class with some of the world’s best chefs. The array of choices and experiences on offer is mind-boggling and, year after year, the MFWF has help put Melbourne on the map as a major food city of the world.
Starting back in 1993 with just 12 events – which included three international chefs – the Festival now has over 300 events, with at least 19 international guest chefs on show at the Langham Melbourne MasterClass as well as countless other chefs from all over the country and the planet featuring at dinners and events around the city. To celebrate its 20th birthday, the Festival will also run for 20 days this year, rather than the usual 10.
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To have reached this milestone is significant not only in terms of the growth of an idea, but in terms of nurturing our notable dining culture. An event like the MFWF not only celebrates food and the people who create it, but the city itself. There couldn’t be a Melbourne Food and Wine Festival without the people who make Melbourne the great city that it is.
Broadsheet’s Pick of MFWF
Ten events that got our taste buds ticking.
1. Joost Greenhouse
Sustainable designer Joost has made a business out of conjuring eco-friendly, waste-free environments will set up Melbourne’s own Greenhouse on the banks of the river for 20 days of the festival. Cited as a living, breathing building, chef Matt Stone from the permanent Greenhouse in Perth will create the menu and, on March 14, host Pierre Roelofs, Darren Purchese, Daniel Fletcher and Luke Whearty for a truly decadent dessert degustation menu with matched wines.
March 2–21, 8am–10pm daily
Queensbridge Square, Southbank, Melbourne
Walk-in restaurant (no bookings)
2. Truck off with Food Vans
Is it a truck off or a truck jam? Whatever you choose to call it, the rise and roll of the food van in Melbourne is being celebrated at Southbank for two days. Whether you’re after a spot of the fresh Indian from the Dhaba truck or want to get your laughing gear around some Massive Weiners, they’ll be there, alongside many other vans for your picking and choosing.
Saturday March 3, noon–9pm & Sunday March 4, noon–6pm
Signal at Northbank, Melbourne
Various prices at each food van
3. No Reservations: A Night with Anthony Bourdain
Tuck into the Princess Theatre and Anthony Bourdain’s tales of travelling to the far reaches of the planet and sharing the food and culture of those around him. We love him for his honesty, his humour and his candour and this event will allow the audience to ask questions of the literary chef.
Wednesday March 8 and Thursday March 9, 8pm–11pm
Princess Theatre, 163 Spring Street, Melbourne
$150 / $80 / $65
4. Sake Master Vs Sommelier
Would you like sake or wine with that? The sake list at Kumo Izakaya is an adventure of the Japanese rice wine with a selection designed to match the food. There’s a savvy wine list too and this dinner is the perfect excuse to try both and decide for yourself. Sake, wine, or both?
Monday March 19, 6.30pm–11pm
$150 sake, wines, shochus and izakaya fare
5. Grown by Joans
One for the sisterhood, this dinner at Pope Joan will celebrate women in winemaking, brewing and farming. Pope Joan was said to be the first female Pope (disguised as a man) but there’ll be no need for disguises here as five courses of delicious food will be matched with beers and wines – all made by the ladies.
Wednesday March 14, 7pm–11.30pm
$130 five courses with matched wine and beer
6. Gourmet Traveller Dinner – Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and David Chang
The boys from New York will be cooking up a storm at the original MoVida on Hosier Lane. Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone from Torrisi Italian Specialities in New York are visiting Melbourne for the first time and teaming up with Chang in what we can only imagine to be an explosive feast of flavours, textures and sheer pleasure.
Wednesday March 7, 6.30pm–9pm
$200 per head with matched wine
7. Theatre of Ideas
Four classes over two days led by four of the world’s most creative, intellectual chefs –Rene Redzepi, Ben Shewry, David Chang and Massimo Bottura – known for challenging ideas and constructs to help shape our relationship with food for the future. You’re nuts if you miss this.
Saturday March 10 & Sunday March 11
Melbourne Convention Centre, South Wharf
Day ticket $320 / Weekend ticket $595 / Single Session $65
8. World's Longest Lunch in the CBD
The lunch that keeps on going is often the first event to sell-out each year. Take your seat at the MFWF’s longest table for a long lunch of local produce cooked by exceptional regional chefs, George Biron (Sunnybrae), Patrizia Simone (Simone’s) and Annie Smithers (Annie Smithers’ Bistrot).
Friday March 2, noon–3pm
Alexandra Park, Alexandra Avenue, South Yarra
9. Drink of the Gold Rush Era
Cocktails from days gone by will be flowing at this session to discuss the cocktails and brews from the Gold Rush era. Cocktail historian Sebastian Reaburn specialises in heritage-listed vintage cocktails and will entice, inform and mix stories from the drinks of long ago, in addition to brewers and cider makers sharing stories and telling tall tales.
Saturday March 10 & Sunday March 11
The Boatbuilders Yard
Day ticket $320 / Weekend ticket $595 / Liquid Lounge $80
10. Are you Game? Hunting for Food
Reconnecting with how our food is raised, grown and harvested is the essence of this event, with a cooking demonstration by conservationist and hunter Matt Fowles, a talk by the guys from The Sustainable Table and food by Ivan Saiz, the head chef of The Robert Burns. Not for the faint-hearted, this event is for those who like to keep their food and its origins real.
Thursday March 8, 7pm–10.30pm
The Robert Burns Hotel
$150 cooking demonstration, three courses with matched wines
The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival will run from March 2-22 all over Melbourne and regional Victoria.