Cultural exchange on the menu

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Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times

Top chefs highlighted the important link between food, culture and the spectrum of culinary experiences during their visit to the region last week as part of the sixth annual Margaret River Gourmet Escape.

Food and wine lovers were able to get up close and personal with some of the world’s best-known culinary personalities from November 16-19, with headliner Curtis Stone joining more than 50 leading industry heavyweights, including Pierre Koffman, Andre Chiang and Jancis Robinson.

On top of the series of events, chefs were given the chance to tell their stories, with several speaking to the Times about their experiences and impressions of the region.

Asia’s Best Female Chef 2017 May Chow said visiting chefs were not just “here to cook” but to experience the region and offer something in return.

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Chow opened her first restaurant, Little Bao, in 2013 because she “had too many ideas to work for anyone seriously”.

“My food is all about the exploration of culture without losing the soul of what makes it distinct,” she said.

“That’s what events like Gourmet Escape are all about, eating while learning about new cultures.”

Barbados-born Paul Carmichael said dishes allowed for history to be remembered and shared. Working in iconic New York kitchens before relocating to become Momofuku Seiobo’s executive chef, Carmichael still enjoyed cooking chiefly Caribbean food.

“It’s a young cuisine heavily influenced by a culture of colonialism and slavery,” he said.

“It makes sense that it’s always evolving, because people aren’t too eager to hold fast to traditions from that time.” Carmichael said even neighbouring islands had completely different cuisines, with the food telling a story about each region.

Carmichael said it was exciting to come to the Margaret River region and share those stories at events like Invention & Heritage, where he and Vasse Felix chef Brendann Pratt served a five-course degustation to guests.

The Fat Duck head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts served up dishes at Howard Park Wines, The Foraged Lunch and the World’s Best Chef Table.

Palmer-Watts said the nostalgia behind food was a powerful thing.

“My dishes are contemporary, but historically inspired,” he said.

“We’ve tried to bring the same nostalgia here as well, with things like the Cherry Ripe Twist and so on.”

Palmer-Watts said the best thing about Gourmet Escape was the ability for people to experience the personality of chefs and character behind their dishes.

Canadian chef and founder of the restaurant, Antler, Michael Hunter said he also believed sharing food was about “sharing the story behind it and allowing people to connect with that story”.

“The chefs and restaurants that do well are those who are authentic, with a story to communicate and a strong sense of who they are,” he said.

Hunter shared his love for wild game at Feast in the Forest and said he especially loved tasting kangaroo in the region.

Margaret River Gourmet Escape has welcomed more than 160 of the world’s most influential chefs and food and wine influencers to the region and more than 100,000 passionate food and wine-loving visitors since its inception in 2012.

Event highlights included the Audi Gourmet Beach BBQ, which kicked off the event at Castle Rock Beach on Friday night, and father-and-son duo Rick and Jack Stein’s participation in the festival for the fifth time.

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