Four of the country’s leading chefs went head to head at the eighth annual Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) Food Fight on 6 June.
The chefs served more than 350 guests who donated more than $30,000 to support industry scholarship funds and food rescue charity, OzHarvest.
Hosted by chefs Colin Fassnidge of 4Fourteen and Matt Kemp of Q Station, this year’s change in format brought a new element to the clash, with chefs going head to head rather than competing in teams.
Guests enjoyed a four course meal, with each chef creating one dish, matched with a Hunter Valley wine. After the meal, guests had to vote for the dish they preferred.
The ‘Top Gun’ title was taken out by Gareth Williams, head pastry chef at Restaurant Mason. Troy Rhoade-Brown of Muse Restaurant and Muse Kitchen was named this year’s Industry Person of Excellence.
The meal began with a paperbark smoked salmon served with house sour cream, cucumber and rye created by Muse Kitchen head chef Sean Townsend. It was followed by a course from Rob Kabboord – chef de cuisine at Quay Restaurant – who served up a cauliflower, kohlrabi, seaweed, umami broth. Next was pork neck with molasses, turnips and black garlic from Sixpenny sous chef, Aaron Ward. Dessert was a jasmine rice pudding with rhubarb, pomegranate, goat’s curd sorbet and pain d’epice from Williams.
Funds raised at the live auction support the Brett Graham Scholarship, a program in partnership with Hunter TAFE that helps the region’s young apprentice chefs by offering them the opportunity to work with Graham at his London Michelin starred restaurant, The Ledbury.
HCA chairman Ben Neil said “Events such as the Food Fight have seen this scholarship grow from covering just the cost of a recipient’s flight to an additional $10,000 prize, which can make a huge difference to a young chef’s career development.”
“In addition to the Brett Graham Scholarship, we are able to offer other HCA scholarships and initiatives that focus on assisting the regions talent as well as contributing to the greater development of the industry.”
The HCA also made a donation of $10,000 to aid OzHarvest’s local branch in its efforts to purchase a new vehicle.