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Melbourne masterclass celebrates The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Ashley Palmer-Watts, UK
Ashley Palmer-Watts, UK.

Supplied: Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

In 2017, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival will stage its 25th celebration and the world’s leading chefs, restaurateurs, critics and food writers look to the city for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Presented by the Bank of Melbourne, more than 250,000 food and wine lovers are expected to gather across Victoria to attend a diverse and unforgettable program of more than 200 events during the 2017 MFWF (31 March - 9 April).

This all-important global gathering will shine a light on Victoria’s world-class restaurant industry, regional food bowls and ever-growing gastronomic reputation.

To celebrate the alignment of dates of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants (4 - 6 April) and the MFWF, the hallmark festival event series MasterClass (1 - 2 April) will boast a roll call of eight chefs whose restaurants have previously featured on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

The first five chef presenters for next year’s lineup have been announced, with the remaining presenters to be revealed over the coming weeks. The amazing lineup includes:

Gastón Acurio

Country: Peru
Restaurant/s: Astrid y Gastón, Café del Museo, La Mar, Panchita, Madam Tusan et al.
W50B ranking: Astrid y Gastón #30 (2016)

Gaston Acurio is one of Peru’s best and most popular chefs.

The son of a politician, Acurio’s family expected him to follow in his father’s footsteps (today, he is so popular in Peru that his countrymen often urge him to run for president). But food was his calling, so he dropped out of law school to study culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris instead. It was there that he met his German-born wife, Astrid, and they returned to Peru in 1994 to open their first restaurant.

When it opened, Astrid y Gastón served traditional French fare, but Acurio grew bored. He began to experiment with local ingredients rather than imported ones, discovering that, for him, success lay in his native cuisine.

Acurio now has over 40 restaurants across 12 countries, and is largely credited with refining Peruvian cuisine, making it fashionable, and introducing it to the world. He also runs a cooking school, hosts his own TV show, and has authored several books including the English-language Peru: The Cookbook.

Wylie Dufresne

Country: USA
Restaurant/s: wd~50, Alder (both closed), Du’s Donuts and Coffee (TBC).
W50B ranking: wd~50 #34 (2005), #45 (2010)

Wylie Dufresne is one of the world’s leading molecular gastronomy chefs.

Although trained in classical French cuisine (first at the French Culinary Institute and then under famed French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten), there is nothing traditional or classical about Dufresne’s food or thought processes.

His first restaurant, wd~50, was way ahead of its time when it opened in 2003, serving dishes such as his famous deconstructed eggs benedict – fried hollandaise, yolks cooked in a temperature-controlled water bath, bacon wisps and English muffin crumbs. He’s also known for a dish of pickled beef tongue with fried mayonnaise; a dish of coconut and carrot plated to look like a fried egg; and Everything-Bagel Ice Cream.

In 2010, Dufresne won the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Chef in New York City. He opened another, more casual, restaurant called Alder in 2013.

wd~50 closed in 2014, after the building it was in was sold to redevelopers. Alder followed in 2015. In September 2016, Dufresne announced plans on Twitter to open a doughnut shop in Brooklyn called Du’s Donuts and Coffee.

Ashley Palmer-Watts

Country: UK
Restaurant/s: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
W50B ranking: #45 (2016)
Ashley Palmer-Watts is best known as Heston Blumenthal’s right-hand man, and his most successful protégé.
He joined Blumenthal at The Fat Duck in 1999, moving up the ranks to sous chef in 2001, and becoming head chef two years after that.
Palmer-Watts is now executive chef at Dinner by Heston (both London and Melbourne), where he played a large role in creating the menu. Inspired by Britain’s culinary history, one of its signature dishes is the Meat Fruit – a lovely orb of chicken liver parfait designed to resemble a mandarin. Another is the Tipsy Cake – brandy-soaked brioche served with caramelised roasted pineapple.
Although the restaurant bears his mentor’s name, Palmer-Watts has been crucial to its success.

David Thompson

Country: Australia
Restaurant/s: Nahm (London, Bangkok); Long Chim (Perth, Sydney, Melb TBC)
W50B ranking: Nahm Bangkok #37 (2016)

Australian-born David Thompson is widely considered to be the best Thai chef in the world.

Thompson fell in love with the punchy, bold and improbably-balanced cuisine during a holiday to Thailand in the 1980s.

He made a name for himself during the 1990s with Sydney’s Darley Street Thai and Sailors Thai, before moving to London to open Nahm. After Nahm became the first Thai restaurant to earn a Michelin star, he opened another in Bangkok, which Restaurant magazine then named best restaurant in Asia in 2014.

Thompson returned to Sydney in late 2015 to open Long Chim in Perth. He then opened a Long Chim in Sydney in 2016, and will open another in Melbourne in early 2017.

Jorge Vallejo, Mexico
Jorge Vallejo, Mexico.

Supplied: Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

Jorge Vallejo

Country: Mexico
Restaurant/s: Quintonil
W50B ranking: #12 (2016)

Jorge Vallejo is the young chef behind one of Mexico’s most exciting restaurants, Quintonil.

After stints in some of the world’s best restaurants, including Copenhagen’s Noma and Pujol, also in Mexico City, Vallejo opened Quintonil with his wife in 2012. Quintonil currently sits in 12th position on the World’s 50 Best list, which is the highest position a Mexican restaurant has ever occupied.

A huge advocate of local and seasonal produce, his dishes include cactus cebiche; stone crab tostadas; and shrimp blossoms with vegetables.

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This material was produced by the Victorian Government