If you’ve ever wanted to dine at Alain Passard’s three-Michelin-starred L'Arpège restaurant in Paris, this could be your chance. The renowned French chef is coming to Australia in March to headline a series of dinners in Tasmania called the Great Chef Series.
“Tasmania is a garden to be explored,” says Passard, whose restaurant is currently ranked 19 in the world. “The opportunity to visit is a great honour for me, for its reputation is widely known.”
It’s a big win for TasTAFE, the organisation behind the series. Passard (who earned three Michelin stars in 1996 and hasn’t dropped once since) has never travelled to Australia before, and he tends to shun awards nights, so this trip is not related to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards (happening in Melbourne on April 5). He’s flying from Paris straight to Hobart, then back again.
“I’m excited about the idea of sharing my experiences with young passionate cooks, to discover their senses and their approaches to Tasmania’s cuisine,” says Passard. “Cooking is an art and an adventure.”
“In the words of Michael Corleone, I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” jokes Christopher McGimpsey, education manager at TasTAFE. But really, it was an alignment of philosophies and the attraction of Tasmania’s produce that sealed the deal for Passard.
“Obscure was the lure, I think,” adds McGimpsey. “It’s not Melbourne or Sydney, it’s Tasmania. It’s like Dire Straits doing a concert at Hanging Rock. Something that’s obscure can often make so much sense.”
Passard is not the only internationally acclaimed chef heading to Hobart for the series. McGimpsey has also secured Dominique Crenn from Atelier Crenn in San Francisco (she’s one of the world’s best female chefs and Christian Puglisi, whose Relae in Copenhagen is recognised as the most sustainable restaurant in the world (it’s currently ranked 40 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
McGimpsey began running the series last year as an extra layer of learning for his TAFE culinary students. Chefs including Jacques Reymond, Donovan Cooke, Mark Best, Tetsuya Wakuda and Dan Hong have previously been involved. He wanted to “up the ante” in 2017, hence the internationals, although there is an impressive group of Australian chefs on the line-up again this year, including David Moyle and Phil Wood.
All the chefs involved in the series head to Tasmania to spend time with the students in Hobart and Launceston. They then work with the final-year students on a series of dinners, open to the public, all cooked with Tasmanian produce.
“We’ve got some really good assets here [in Tasmania],” McGimpsey says. “The produce, the people, innovation … We’ve got a good opportunity to really step it up a bit.
“We also want to give our apprentices and students an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
The Great Chef Series runs from March 29 to August 11. Full program and bookings.