The world’s culinary elite gathered in Melbourne in April for a series of events celebrating the annual announcement of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

The programme brought more than 90 international chefs and world-class restaurateurs, 26 academy chairs and 240 international media to the Victorian capital for an indulgent week. Founded in 2002, the event celebrates global gastronomy with its annual awards, based on votes by The Diners Club World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy.

The event, held only in London before touring New York in 2016, coincided with Melbourne’s 25th annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

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It was a big win for Tourism Australia after a long bidding process, and as such, expectations were high.

“We were focused on ensuring the chefs, media and influencers attending the event had the opportunity to experience Australia’s food and wine and, in turn, become long-term advocates for our culinary scene,” says managing director, John O’Sullivan.

Australia's top chefs gather in Melbourne


Creativity

Tourism Australia partnered with event owners William Reed Business Media to create an interactive programme showcasing Australia’s local produce and stunning natural scenery. Key events included a welcome Chef’s Feast at West Beach Bathers Pavilion in St Kilda, the official awards gala, a morning-after Great Aussie Brunch, and post-ceremony tour of South Australia, ‘The Academy Escape’.

Australian produce front and centre


A number of local event agencies were commissioned to co-create the week-long foodie feast. Belle Laide Events helped to produce both the Chef’s Feast and Brunch events, while Fairfax Events managed event production for the awards ceremony.

The welcome Chef’s Feast gave the 50 best chefs a taste of Australia, prepared by some of the country’s leading chefs including Kylie Kwong, Peter Gilmore, Shannon Bennett and Ben Shewry.

Shrewy's siganutre emu eggs


“The Chef’s Feast is the premier social event around The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards,” says Delon Price, creative director at Belle Laide Events. “Tourism Australia wanted to use this event as an opportunity to tell a unique and inspiring story around Australian people, produce and place.

“We developed a creative direction and visual style for the event based around the colours and textures sampled from the Australian landscape, highlighted with bespoke brass touches. Every piece of décor and furniture was brought in especially for the occasion. These were combined with full-colour printed table tops and spectacular native foliage installations to create a luxe dining room experience on the edge of the sand.”

Beach feast included top chefs like Kylie Kwong


Meanwhile, the awards ceremony saw more than 850 guests walk the red carpet and dine from an Australian-themed menu created by celebrity chef Neil Perry, head of Rockpool Dining Group.

A free public broadcast allowed food enthusiasts to watch the ceremony live on a giant screen in Melbourne’s Federation Square, where a picnicthemed event included live food talks, music, food trucks and light projections on surrounding buildings.

Federation Sqaure held a series of live public events


Tourism Australia then bade farewell to attendees at the newly opened QT Melbourne with a ‘Great Aussie Brunch’ on the hotel’s rooftop, an event celebrating the country’s leading Asian-Australian chefs with a dim-sum feast.

They were sent off with Australian-themed gifts including personalised Vegemite and Tim Tams, as well as an engraved Suisin knife from Tanto, QT Melbourne’s dedicated Japanese knife shop.

Logistical feat... Bathers Pavilion


Challenges

With so many events, and high-profile chefs, media and social influencers in attendance, the programme was logistically challenging.

Transforming the rustic Bathers Pavilion into one fit for the Chef’s Feast wasn’t without challenge either, according to Price. “A heritage venue literally on the sand with a great location and ocean views, it had good ‘bones’ but needed a lot of attention to bring it up to the standard required to host a VIP event,” he says.

VIP guests included celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal


“We basically stripped the venue bare, arranged to have the walls repainted, floors refinished and cleaned from top to bottom.” The outdoors got a special makeover as well.

“Outside on the sand, custom made BBQ pits were installed with special wood brought in from around the country to form part of an extensive outdoor kitchen,” Price adds. “Here top Australian chefs prepared entrees as guests watched the sunset over Port Phillip Bay.”