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Melbourne is undoubtedly the food capital of Australia, if only through the sheer volume of food-related events and activities we host. Victorians are obsessed with any and all food from all ends of the spectrum, and there's no doubt we have some of Australia's best food venues.
One of the biggest and best events on the annual foodie calendar is the Melbourne Good Food & Wine Show, running this year 1-3 June 2012. The event now provides a fresh hands-on focus on Australia's new favourite pastime, cooking (complementing our other favourite pastime – eating).
Where to start? What about Celebrity Chef Theatre, featuring both firmly established and newly crowned stars of the hotplate such as Maggie Beer, John Torride, Rick Stein, George Colambaris and the eternally charming Manu Feildel. These seasoned performers will be demonstrating how to prepare some of their favourite dishes and sharing tips live on stage – no ad breaks, no reshoots, no food stylists. Just a kitchen and an audience of hundreds – no pressure.
If you are keen on broadening your palate, Australian Bush Foods are given the spotlight during Andrew Fielke's Tuckeroo Cooking School. Andrew is one of the pioneers in the field of using bush food ingredients in cooking, and he actively promotes the industry through his Tuckeroo business selling native food ingredients. (His recipes are well worth a look: entrees, mains and desserts). During his masterclass you'll learn how to use distinctive, delicious and often delicate native ingredients, and you'll also get a take-home goodie bag. Who knows, you might find some of these items in your own backyard.
For those that prefer to forego actual meals in favour of a never-ending cheese platter, there is the Cheese Masterclass presented by Kurrajong Kitchen. Australian cheeses will be featured, each accompanied by the appropriate matching wine. The session covers such essential topics as 'Creating harmony - how to assemble a cheese platter' (achieving the delicate balance between, according to the organisers, 'creamy, crumbly, runny, piquant and pungent cheeses'); 'Soft and smelly - washed rind and blue cheeses'; 'Soft and sensitive – fresh curd and white mould cheeses'.
Photo courtesy of Good Food & Wine Festival website
Kurrajong Kitchen will also be hosting Cheese Alley, presenting sample tastings from some of Australia's best-known cheesemakers including Bruny Island Cheese, Tarago River Cheese, Yarra Valley Dairy, Milawa Cheese Company, Barambah Organics, and Puglia Cheese.
The lactose-intolerant among us (including me, sob) will have to pass on cheese heaven and head instead for the Reidel Glass Tasting Class to learn the intricacies of how the wine glass you use can dramatically affect the wine's flavour. Or for a pick-me-up, there's the Nespresso: Journey Through Coffee. (Yes, I know Melburnians are experts on great coffee, but there's always something new to learn).
Tired? The onsite Oxford Landing Estates Restaurant provides a welcome respite from all the food by offering…more food. But not just any food; the menu is designed by the incomparable and delightful Maggie Beer, using seasonal ingredients, with each course matched to an Oxford Landing Estates wine. A sample dish is Eggplant and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Molasses.
Photo courtesy of Good Food & Wine Festival website
If it sounds like a major detox will be required after these and other great sessions, fear not: the festival also includes the Healthy Living Zone, presented by Macro Wholefoods. With regular demonstrations on the Macro Kitchen Stage, it's a chance to convince yourself that healthy doesn't have to be boring and can make a welcome addition to any flavourful meal. The Healthy Living Zone also incorporates a dedicated Gluten Free section with plenty of fresh ideas for gluten-free cooking.
It might also be worth dropping into the Skinny Girl Pamper Zone for a refreshing and palate-cleansing cocktail that won't eat up your daily calorie allowance (their Margarita and White Cranberry Cosmo cocktails are both under 100 calories per 100 grams – drink two). If you purchase one of the Skinny Girl products, you'll even get a free express manicure or pedicure.
Tickets Celebrity Theatre
Pass includes show entry: Adult $30, Concession* $25 General Entry
Adult $30, Concession* $25
(Please check your concession eligibility on the Good Food & Wine website) Riedel Decanter Bar
Session only $60
Riedel Wine Lovers Pass - includes show entry $85 Dan Murphy's International World of Wines
Session only $55
Dan Murphy's World of Wine Pass - includes show entry $79 Cheese Masterclass
Session only $20
Cheese Lovers Pass - includes 1 session & show entry $45 Tuckaroo Cooking Class
Session only $25
Tuckeroo Cooking School Pass - includes Show Entry $50 Lifestyle FOOD Chefs Table
Session only $50
Lifestyle FOOD Chef's Table Pass - includes show entry $75 Private Dining Room
Includes show entry - $195