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Ledbury alumni up the ante at tenth annual Hunter Culinary Association Food Fight

It was a gastronomicbattle to be remembered when four of the country’s best up-and-coming chefs went head-to-head in the kitchen on Monday for the Hunter Culinary Association’s (HCA) annual Food Fight.

 Each had previously shared the honour of cooking beside the legendary Brett Graham at his acclaimed London Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury, but there could only be one winner among the alumni and on the day, this year’s title went to Thomas Boyd for his milk parfait, macadamia, honey and thyme dessert.

 The annual Food Fight is the HCA’s signature event and this year’s – the tenth - certainly did not disappoint. It was a clash of champions that saw chefs’ Eilish Maloney (Formerly Saint Peter Paddington), Thomas Boyd (Margan), Troy Crisante (Quay Restaurant) and George Mirosevich (Restaurant Mason) muster their skills in the kitchen in an attempt to woo diners and take home the prestigious honour.

 More than 320 guests were served an incredible four-course lunch at the event, with the chefs pulling out all stops to create a dish of their choice. 

 The first course was created by Eilish, who served dry aged snapper, last season’s birch fermented tomatoes and preserved lemon. Troy’s dish was the second course, a stunning nduja with peas and black olive. The third course created by George was a delicious roast and braised lamb with garlic and Jerusalem artichoke; and dessert was Thomas’s mouth-watering milk parfait, macadamia, honey and thyme.

 HCA Chairman Gus Maher said the standard of the Food Fight was ‘incredible’.

‘The quality of the food presented by each of the chefs was impressive,’ he said.

‘What’s extra special about this event is that it not only gives chefs a forum to showcase their talents, but the Food Fight auction we hold on the day also raises money for our range of scholarships. The Brett Graham Scholarship is one of those, providing a young chef the opportunity to work with Brett Graham at The Ledbury – an incredible experience shared by each of today’s chefs.’

 ‘Once again, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of members and guests at the event which will change the course of an aspiring chef’s career by giving them the opportunity of a lifetime.

Another winner on the day was renowned Hunter Valley restaurateur Andrew Wright of The Cellar Restaurant and The Wood Restaurant.  Andrew is a passionate advocate for the Hunter culinary industry and was one of the co-founders of the Association. He was recognised and awarded with the highest honour of Outstanding Contribution by an Individual.

Christina Atherton
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What happens when four of this country’s young gun chefs – all of who have cooked alongside Brett Graham at The Ledbury in London – sharpen their knives and go head-to-head in the kitchen?

 The annual Food Fight is the signature event organised by the Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) and is a highly-anticipated occasion on the Hunter’s culinary calendar. This year’s clash promises to be as thrilling as ever, with the chefs working their magic and creating a dish of their choice to take out the prestigious title. Each chef will prepare one lunch course matched with a Hunter Valley wine. Guests will then vote for their preferred dish at the conclusion of lunch.

 The chefs are: Thomas Boyd (Margan); Troy Crisante (Quay Restaurant); George Mirosevich (Restaurant Mason) and Eilish Maloney, formerly of Saint Peter;

 HCA Chairman Gus Maher said the tenth annual Food Fight was set to be an ‘unforgettable gourmet event’, once again hosted by the inimitable duo Colin Fassnidge and Matt Kemp, who are longtime supporters of the Hunter Culinary Association.

‘Each of these talented chefs have trained under the legendary Brett Graham at his acclaimed London Michelin-starred restaurant, so guests will be dining at an incredibly high standard,’ Mr Maher said.

‘That is extra special as the Food Fight, and its signature auction supports our region’s young chefs by giving them the opportunity to work with Brett in London through the Brett Graham Scholarship which we undertake in conjunction with TAFE NSW.’

 HCA Chairman Gus Maher says the Food Fight has allowed the Brett Graham scholarship to grow, but most notably allow the overall HCA scholarship program to expand benefitting the career development of many young chefs.

‘The key objective of the HCA is to provide scholarship opportunities to develop the careers of young and aspiring chefs and apprentices. 

The Hunter Culinary Association Food Fight lunch attracts large industry support, but is also open for members of the public to attend and immerse themselves in this special food experience.

Date: Monday 17 June 2019

Time: 11am

Location: Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, Pokolbin.

Cost: $175 for HCA members, $195 for non-members and $90 for apprentice chefs 



Christina Atherton
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There’s always so much to love about Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival season; and this year, it’s even bigger and better than before as this special little corner of the world celebrates the good life with a program of food and wine experiences sure to tempt the tastebuds of every visitor.

Spanning May and June, the festival showcases the premium produce and wine the Hunter Valley is famed for all over the world. Featuring more than 40 events from delicious gourmet dinners at award-winning restaurants to vineyard tours, wine masterclasses, hands on cooking classes and long lunches, this year’s Festival has it all!

Presented by Wine Selectors, the program features 17 new events including Smokey Sundaysat Matilda Bay Brewhouse, Semillon and Sushi Tasting at Briar Ridge Vineyard, Then and Now Tasting Eventat Pepper Tree Wines, Organic Winemakers Dinner with Tamburlaine Organic Wines at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, Scarborough Sensory Schooling at Scarborough Wine Co and the Meet the Makers Red Release Masterclass at Tyrrell’s.

Complimenting these new events are iconic Festival favourites including the Hunter Valley Wine Festivalthe Original 100 Metre Mealat Margan, Glandore Estate Burning of the BarrelMusic In The Woods at Stonehurst Cedar Creek and the Olive Long Table Luncheon with guest chef Frank Fawkner at Whispering Brook in Broke Fordwich.

A highlight this year will be the highly-anticipated tenth annual Hunter Culinary Association Food Fight on 17 June when leading Hunter Valley chefs go head to head with the best chefs on the Sydney restaurant scene. 

There’s also a host of vertical wine tastings and set-price lunches and dinners on offer during the Festival. 

Just a two-hour drive north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley is home to more than 150 wineries and is bursting with all the delights of its highly acclaimed food and wine culture. With accommodation and experience packages for every budget, the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival is the perfect opportunity for a sumptuous winter getaway.

For more information about this year’s lineup of events visit

Christina Atherton

Dark Horse Vineyard in the Hunter Valley will once again host the prestigious Polo in the Vines this year, bringing all the glamour and fun of the popular event to this pretty pocket of the Hunter Valley.

Following on from the success of last year’s inaugural event, the stunning boutique vineyard will once more come to life with the excitement of thundering hooves, top horsemanship, fine Hunter Valley wines and mouth-watering cuisine.

The event is part of the hugely-popular Urban Polo series, and this year’s Polo in the Vines promises be another day to remember as guests soak up the excitement and enjoy the autumn scenery of lush grapevines bordering the purpose-built field during an incredible VIP experience from esteemed local chef Troy Rhoades-Brown and his team.

This year’s polo match will see home state NSW take on the Victorian team in a six-chukka game.

Urban Polo Founder Janek Gazecki said it was fantastic to be returning to Dark House for the second year. 

‘After searching for five years to find the perfect venue, last year the setting and hospitality was incredible and we are thrilled to be back,’ Gazecki said.

‘The polo field is superb, surrounded by verdant vines on two sides, and a horse yard on the third.  The remaining side is graced by a rustic barn converted into what appears like a showcase Hermes home, the perfect place for our VIP area,’ 

Dark Horse Vineyard, owned by Olivia and Martin Pukanic, is a private vineyard located on Wilderness Road in the popular Lovedale area. 

The primary focus of Polo in the Vines is the VIP dining experience, which will be held inside the Dark Horse barn. Guests will be treated to a fantastic meal prepared by Rhoades-Brown, widely known as restaurateur and chef of the two-hatted Muse, matched with the very best Hunter Valley wines.

 ‘We are really looking forward to working with Troy and his team,’ Gazecki said. ‘There is no one better to capture the essence of Autumn in the Hunter Valley – Troy is renowned for his incredible cuisine.

 ‘We are extremely excited about working with him to evoke the excitement and glamour that always surrounds a prestigious polo event.’

Popovic said the event was the highlight of the year at Dark Horse.

‘When we bought the site and renovated the cellar door it was especially for events like Polo in the Vines.’

In addition to the VIP Experience, guests can also enjoy a more casual day with friends and family from the comfort of the Vineyard Polo Lounge and the Polo Club. There will be tunes from the resident DJ throughout the day, Fashion on the Field, Pamper Suite and plenty of delicious food and local beverages for sale at the bar.

Tickets available through Ticketek here:

For more information, visit

Christina Atherton