Letter from the Editor: A New Avant Garde in Melbourne, Australia Vol: 63

June 2010

Australian cuisine has come a long way from shrimp on the barbie and our recent trip there allowed us to see firsthand just how far. We explored Melbourne and environs, sampling everything from neighborhood bar food to high concept farm-to-table cuisine.

The timing was just right to allow us to catch the tail end of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. We were thrilled to see such a strong presence of female American and US-based chefs, including April Bloomfield, Nancy Silverton, and Ana Sortun. The Stars of America Dinner at Crown Towers featured Silverton and her Mozza stars, Chef Matt Molina and Pastry Chef Dahlia Narvaez.

We were able to go beyond the tourist version of Melbourne with Crawl n Bite, the food equivalent to a bar crawl. This included stops at Coda, where Chef Adam D'Sylva brings approachable small plates to the table, and MoVida Next Door, part of Frank Camorra's empire in Melbourne.

Chefs like Andrew McConnell and Matthew Wilkinson are major contributors to the enthusiasm that pervades the local food scene. At Circa, the Prince Wilkinson's outlook is playful yet highly refined. He spins classics like crudités and tiramisu into completely re-imagined experiences for the diner. Andrew McConnell, chef-owner of two of Melbourne’s hottest restaurants—Cumulus Inc and Cutler & Co—creates carefully orchestrated dishes with unexpected touches that somehow maintain a casual feel.

At Attica Chef Ben Shewry combines Australia's rich agricultural offerings with a deep sense of terroir. And Sommelier Camm Whiteoak follows suit, adeptly pairing the chef's high concept farm-to-table dishes with a mix of New World and Old World wines. Over at Royal Mail Chef Dan Hunter combines his training at Mugaritz with Australian ingredients from the garden to make him a leader in Australia’s new avant garde movement.

A major figure in Melbourne's shifting food scene is award-winning chef, cookbook and travel guide author, and restaurateur Shannon Bennett. Bennett earned his stripes working in Europe for culinary greats like Albert Roux and Marco Pierre White before returning to Australia to open his modern French restaurant Vue de monde. Read his bio, check out our video interview with him, try his recipe, and learn about what makes him tick in our chef feature.

We experienced a wealth of not only delicious food but also noteworthy presentations in Australia. See how top chefs like Hunter, McConnell, Wilkinson, and Shewry play with classic technique, modern culinary influences, and local ingredients to create distinctive plating styles.

While enjoying our stay at the sprawling hotel and entertainment complex Crown Towers, we chatted with Chef de Cuisine Patrick Zellweger of Conservatory, Chef de Cuisine Jason Alcock of JJ's Bar & Grill, and two Crown Towers banquet chefs, Executive Pastry Chef Matthew Graham and Executive Chef Markus Werner. Learn about what sets Crown Towers apart and how Australian hotel restaurants have changed in our video interview with them. And you can read more details about where to eat, drink, and stay in Melbourne in our travel feature.

We're still scouting for New York and DC Rising Stars—there's still time to submit your nominations for chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, and mixologists. Houston, Chicago, and Portland are on the horizon for 2011, so get your nominations in for those cities, too!

Don't forget to buy your ticket for the StarChefs.com 2010 International Chef's Congress in September and apply to the first Annual StarChefs.com International Pastry Competition (the Grand Prize is a stage with Pierre Hermé!). As always, we love hearing from you! Be sure to become a fan of StarChefs.com on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and keep up with me on Foursquare to stay posted on where I'm going and what I'm eating.

Cheers!
Antoinette
Antoinette Bruno
Editor-in-Chief