Margaret River region wows celeb chefs once again

With the 2018 Gourmet Escape packed away for another year, management company IMG Managing Director for Culinary Hannah Pike says she is thrilled with how the three-day festival has been received by international, interstate and local guests.

“We put together what was probably the most diverse program to date, with events for vegans, meat lovers, sweet tooths, wine and beer lovers, fans of Chinese and Mexican flavours, seafood and more,” she said.

“These were coupled with signature Gourmet Escape events such as the Westpac Gourmet Beach BBQ, Feast in the Forest and the Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate Winery, which have put the festival on the map,” Ms Pike added.

The Festival brought together 60 culinary superstars from WA and around the world, who were joined by more than 20,000 attendees for the seventh installment of the festival since it began in 2012.

Crowd favourites Nigella Lawson, Rick and Jack Stein, Julien Royer, Niki Nakayama, Skye Gyngell and Australia’s best culinary talents, such as Guy Grossi, Luke Mangan and Guillaume Brahimi, ventured to the South West for an epic three days with 50 food and wine events hosted in 25 locations.

“Events took place on the ocean, the beach, in the forest, in beautiful gardens and of course at famed Margaret River wineries.”

The Westpac Gourmet Beach BBQ caterers Heyder & Shears had one of the busiest workloads over the weekend, supporting culinary stars including Nigella Lawson, Matt Stone, Jack Stein and Rick Stein at Castle Rock beach over the festival.

Guests feasted on 80kg of Margaret River wagyu beef cheeks, 280kg of Linley Valley pork, 100kg of south west kingfish, 50 dozen Shark Bay scallops, 100kg of Dorper Lamb, 250kg of Lilydale Free Range chicken, 180kg of North West squid and 100 loaves of Yallingup wood fired bread.

Artisan producers, restaurants and wineries exhibiting in the Gourmet Village were also kept busy with the festival’s epicenter at Leeuwin Estate Winery welcoming the highest number of visitors in the festival’s seven-year history.

“A huge thanks to IMG and all the visiting ‘Escapees’ for yet another successful Gourmet Escape. This fabulous weekend continues to amaze - not just with the high calibre of guests and presenters but also with the support and exposure offered to fellow WA small businesses. I haven’t found a more enjoyable way to network and I doubt that I will,” exhibitor Kate from Little French Market Company said.

Headline visitor Nigella Lawson had a busy schedule which included beachfront conversations, hosting a late night supper, chatting on stage at the Gourmet Village, book signings and a stunning afternoon tea.

She also managed to find time to visit her favourite winery, Cullen, and sample produce from around the region.

“I’m so happy to be back in beautiful WA, and Gourmet Escape was as enchanting as ever: the people, the food and the wine all equally wonderful.” Nigella said.

“And the seafood here is really, as you would expect, amazing. Marron, green-lipped abalone and squid … but also as a longtime avocado lover, to be able to come and eat avocados where they grow is a treat.”

While there were many new chefs experiencing Gourmet Escape and the region for the first time, others love coming back each year.

Rick Stein has been involved for six of the seven years and loves coming back to Margaret River.

“It's just amazingly peaceful. It's the wonderful atmosphere of Margaret River. It's very difficult to encapsulate really. It's just a tremendous sort of feeling of being out in the country with a bit of class as well.

“As I have been here quite a lot, one of the things that really means a lot to me is actually meeting the local chefs, the Australian chefs funnily enough, who tell me stuff I never knew,” Rick said.

Victorian based chef Matt Stone who hails from WA said it is always a pleasure to come back for the festival.

“It’s great to see old friends, meet new friends, and to see the industry growing really strongly down here,” he said.

“There's some amazing restaurants; there always has been, but I feel they're coming to a whole new level and as the restaurants get better, the producers become more involved and they get supported.”

In 2019, the event will be expanded to include events in Perth, the Swan Valley and Margaret River over ten days, from 8 - 17 November.

IMG will release more information about Western Australia Gourmet Escape presented by Westpac in early 2019. To keep up to date on developments, visit www.gourmetescape.com.au

This story Margaret River region wows celeb chefs once again first appeared on Augusta-Margaret River Mail.