Let the games begin! Sydney’s culinary carnival – coined the Crave Sydney International Food Festival (SIFF) – is off to a cracking start. The festival has rapidly expanded in recent years with over a hundred different events on the program. Cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes are followed by showcase dinners and sustainable initiatives. Popular events such as the night noodle markets are set to return, while Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach will be transformed for the ultimate picnic.
The month-long festival kicked off with the World Chef Showcase on October 1 and 2. Local legends such as Peter Gilmore teamed up with international superstars including David Chang, to explore their philosophies on food with thought-provoking cooking demonstrations. Ben Shewry played his acclaimed mini-movie, from René Redzepi’s Mad Food Camp, trailing a foraging expedition with his young son and leaving the audience awe-struck. Magnus Nilsson shared his trials and tribulations from his remote restaurant Faviken, detailing innovative techniques he uses to store fresh produce during the arctic winter months. South American chefs Francis Mallmann and Gaston Acurio added some spice, while our local grill-masters from Porteno were probably the first chefs to set up a pseudo-grill inside a hotel ballroom. Finishing on a sweet note, Adriano Zumbo, David Lebovitz and Willie Harcourt-Cooze tempted the audience with decidedly dangerous desserts.
But the World Chef Showcase was merely like a canapé before a multi-course feast. Showcase dinners let our international stars run loose in some of Sydney’s top restaurants. Nilsson took over the restaurant awarded with three hats (the Australian highest accolade), Marque, to raving reviews; Gabrielle Hamilton collaborated with Alex Herbert at Bird Cow Fish and LA chef Jon Shook (Animal) ran wild at Otto Ristorante.
With such an electric atmosphere, local chefs are joining in on the fun. Sydney’s best young chefs are madly preparing for the 14th annual Young Chefs Dinner on October 17. Every year, the Sydney Morning Herald narrows down a lengthy list to award one lucky contender with the Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year Award - named after an icon of the Sydney restaurant scene. This year’s winner, Terry Robinson (Sepia), was announced at the annual Good Food Guide Awards, where Sydney swaps stars with chef’s hats. Robinson joins a group of young chefs, handpicked Sydney legend Janni Kyritis, to present a culinary showdown at Manly Pavilion.
The fun continues with the night noodle markets – the signature event of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival. As dusk falls, Hyde Park transforms into a buzzing Asian hawker market, with street-food menus and lucky Chinese lions prowling the grounds. Every year Hyde Park, in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, fills to the brink as people gorge on Peking duck pancakes, pad Thai or even Shanghai soup dumplings. Arrive early, before the queues explode, pick a spot on the grass and quickly grab a glass of wine.
Taste some of the state’s finest menus – without breaking the bank – with Crave’s Let’s do Lunch promotion. City and regional restaurants are opening their doors throughout the month of October, offering a set main course with an accompanying drink for just $38. Pop into PiluatFreshwater for slow-roasted Coronga spring lamb with fregola salad and pan juices; or head into the city for a roast loin of Inglegreen pork with smoked apple croquette and cider jus, at Etch Restaurant. Local darling, Biota Dining in Bowral is also getting in on the act offering eucalyptus smoked trout with emulsified cider and spring herbs.
This year marks the inaugural Breakfast at Bondi event, where the picture-perfect Bondi Beach is expected to be taken over by picnickers on October 23. The community focused, Bring Your Own Breakfast By-the-waves will be hosted by Australian chef and cookbook author Bill Granger. Pack a picnic basket and watch the sunrise – or peruse the food stalls by local restaurants and producers. The event follows in the successful footsteps of Breakfast on the Bridge, which in prior years saw the majestic Sydney Harbour Bridge shut down for a morning andtransformed into an inner-city farm-yard.
One of the final events on the Crave calendar is the Aids Food & Wine Fair on October 29. The city’s largest and longest running single-day food event brings together the best restaurants, bars, wineries and producers. Once again, Hyde Park is a hive of activity, as Sydney indulges in gourmet treats while supporting a worthy cause. 2011 marks the Aids Food & Wine Fair’s 21st birthday, which has grown to become the largest fund raiser for the AIDS trust of Australia.
Crave Sydney International Food Festival October 1 - 31, 2011 Website
Photo courtesy Crave Sydney International Food Festival