THE creme-de-la-creme of the culinary world kicked off celebrations at the Crown Towers Crystal Club ahead of this weekend’s Margaret River Gourmet Escape.
The event is set to showcase a line-up of new events and talent, including home-grown celebrity chef Curtis Stone, renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson and international chefs Rick Stein, Alex Atala (D.O.M. Brazil) and Ashley Palmer-Watts (#36 Dinner by Heston, UK).
Stone, who was among a stellar panel, said he was looking forward to kicking off the four-day food, produce and wine extravaganza with a beach barbecue.
“There’s about 300 people coming, we’ve got fires on the beach, we’ve got beautiful produce from the area,” he said.
“Of course you think of the seafood when you come down here but there’s also some incredible organic lamb growers, goat farmers, we’re going to roast some goat, beautiful pigs so we are going to cook everything on that grill.”
The former Surfing the Menu star, who has spent some time in WA, said there was something “cool” about being in this part of the world.
“Everyone you meet is super friendly,” he said.
“The joke is WA ‘wait awhile’, because you’ve just got to stand back for a minute and it takes a little while.
“The conversations get richer and richer and I love it.
“I think it’s a really nice part of being in WA, everyone is genuinely friendly and it’s really cool.”
Event favourite Rick Stein returns to the festival for a fifth time and agreed with Stone.
He said the people and setting were reasons he kept coming back.
“I do know why I keep coming back here, it’s just a really special time particularly this time of year,” he said.
“You wouldn’t get a better beach barbecue anywhere else in the world.
“There’s just this sort of sense in Margaret River of being out in the wild.
“You still get that sense of freedom about it, which keeps drawing us back year after year.”
Tourism WA chair Nathan Harding used the launch to dispel rumours it would be the event’s last year.
“While I’m not at liberty to discuss the outcomes of the talks with the event holder as yet, I can say there will be a positive announcement of the future of this fantastic event in the coming weeks,” he said.
“Regional events like Gourmet Escape are vital for tourism; they attract thousands of visitors to the region, provide valuable global exposure for the destination and add vibrancy and jobs to the local community.”
Featuring record number of events the Gourmet Escape will also include the popular Gourmet Village, long lunches and dinner parties.
WHAT: Margaret River Gourmet Escape
WHERE: Margaret River
WHEN: November 16 – 19