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Insider Guide to Taste of Melbourne Restaurant Festival & South African Garden

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by Lionel (subscribe)
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An Interview with Chef Benny Masekwameng
Taste of Melbourne
Photo courtesy of Taste Festivals Limited


Get set for more gourmet feeding as the Taste of Melbourne Festival returns to the food capital of Australia this year.

From humble beginnings in London 10 years ago, the Taste Festival has become widely recognised as the world's greatest restaurant festival. Foodies and chefs gather in 22 cities such as Amsterdam, Dubai, Hong Kong, Paris and Sydney to celebrate gourmet dining surrounded by pop-up restaurants and entertainment. The scene is no different in the world's most livable city as some of the top local restaurants, celebrity chefs and visiting culinary experts congregate to deliver 4 days of stunning food and drinks in Albert Park's Pelican Lawn.

taste of melbourne festival
Photo courtesy of Taste Festivals Limited


Organised in partnership with Electrolux, this year's 4-day celebration of Melbourne's vibrant dining scene will also feature a South African Garden. A star feature of the Garden is South Africa's own celebrity chef, Benny Masekwameng. This Tsogo Sun culinary executive and MasterChef South Africa judge served on the panel advising Africa.com on which top establishments in Africa are rated and also upgraded the first and business class menus of South African Airways. He has specially flown into Melbourne to demonstrate the culinary flair of South African cuisine at the Taste of Melbourne Festival.

Chef Benny Masekwameng
Chef Benny Masekwameng / Photo courtesy of Tsogo Sun


I managed to catch up with Chef Benny to get a quick inside scoop of the Taste of Melbourne Festival and South African Garden between 12 to 15 November.

Lionel: Is this your first time to Melbourne? What's your impression?

Benny: Yes, this is my first time to Melbourne and in fact Australia. My first impression is that it is a lovely city with packed full restaurants and amazing food. I find it unbelievable that the restaurants were all pumping on a Monday and Tuesday night!

Lionel: How are you planning to spend your time in Melbourne?

Benny: I plan to visit as many restaurants and bars as possible as I have heard very good things about the Melbourne food and wine scene. And from what I've seen so far, that certainly holds true.

taste of melbourne festival
Photo courtesy of Taste Festivals Limited


Lionel: What attracted you to make the long journey to the Taste of Melbourne Festival?

Benny: I was always intrigued by this large island continent and a great opportunity arose with South African Tourism to come and join the South African Garden at the Taste of Melbourne Festival. Any opportunity to showcase South African cuisine is a priority in my books.

Lionel: What's exciting about this year's Festival?

Benny: There are over 50 signature creations from more than 15 leading restaurants like Pei Modern, MoVida, Circa, Royal Mail Hotel and Gazi. The food will be accompanied by other delicious items including the Electrolux Taste Theatre, producers' market, masterclasses and of course, the South African Garden.

taste of melbourne festival
Photo courtesy of Taste Festivals Limited


Lionel: Which chefs are you looking forward to meet?

Benny: I look forward to seeing Neil Perry and George Calombaris because I have worked with them before in South Africa. I also am excited to meet Brent Owens and Hayden Quinn who will also be demonstrating how to create South African cuisine in the South African Garden.

Lionel: What's different between the Taste of Melbourne Festival and the dining festivals in South Africa?

Benny: Well this is actually going to be the first one I experience here, so it will be interesting to see! However, there are also Taste Festivals in South Africa. In fact if you come to the South African Garden at taste of Melbourne, you can go into the running to win a trip to a South African Taste Festival of your choice - Taste of Joburg, Durban or Cape Town!

Chef Benny Masekwameng
Chef Benny Masekwameng / Photo courtesy of Tsogo Sun


Lionel: What can visitors expect from the South African Garden?

Benny: Visitors can expect world-class South African cuisine and wines as well as an authentic Braai which is a traditional South African barbecue. Myself and former MasterChef contestants Hayden Quinn and Brent Owens, who have recently visited South Africa, will be there demonstrating how guests can prepare their own South African dishes. Wine critic Mike Bennie will lead wine masterclasses so you'll know exactly which wines to pair with your South African meals!

Visitor note: Taste of Melbourne offers the choice of lunch or dinner sessions, totaling 6 from 12 to 15 November. Each session runs for 4 to 5 hours for visitors to savour their own tasty menu and enjoy the various culinary attractions. Tickets are available online or at the door.
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Why? Largest outdoor dining & restaurant event in Melbourne
When: Lunch: 12.00pm 4.00pm / Dinner: 5.30pm 10.00pm
Phone: 02 9332 9000
Where: Pelican Lawn, Albert Park
Cost: From $25.49
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