The ninth annual Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) Food Fight took place this week, with four top chefs battling it out for the title.

With around 300 guests in attendance, the event saw a total of $40,000 raised to support industry scholarships and food rescue charity OzHarvest.

Chefs Joel Bickford (Aria), Mitch Orr (ACME), Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant) and Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley) were tasked with creating unique takes on classic dishes that have stood the test of time.

Fawkner took out the win, with his dish of scampi, bisque emulsion, grilled lettuce, native plants and seaweed oil winning over diners and earning him this year’s title.

Fawkner’s first course was followed by a carpaccio parmigiana, cooked by Orr. The third course was Bickford’s lamb roast and for dessert, Watt served diners a strawberry eton mess.

Newcastle and Hunter regional hospitality pioneer Neil Slater was awarded the Association’s highest honour of outstanding contribution by an individual.

Former long-time HCA chairman Ben Neil was also honoured with life membership of the Association.

HCA chair Gus Maher says the generosity of members and guests was incredible and he had been humbled by the response to the event.

“Everyone was genuinely impressed with the quality of the food which the chefs presented,” he says. “We acknowledge the wonderful support of our commercial partners, auction prize contributors and generous bidders.”

The annual Food Fight auction also enables HCA to offer support to young and aspiring chefs and apprentices, through programs such as the Brett Graham scholarship, which gives a young chef the opportunity to work with Graham at his acclaimed London Michelin starred restaurant, The Ledbury.

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