House of Airlie Public Relations
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2018 hunter culinary association Food Fight Winner announced

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It was the annual clash of the pans as four of Australia’s leading chefs cooked off at the ninth annual Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) Food Fight.

The chef’s challenge - working their magic to create unique takes on classic dishes that have stood the test of time - was much enjoyed by the 300 guests. The Food Fight auction then raised $40,000 to support industry scholarships and food rescue charity, OzHarvest.

The hotly-contested battle saw chefs Joel Bickford (Aria), Mitch Orr (ACME), Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant) and Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley) going head to head. The final victor was Frank Fawkner, with his Scampi Cocktail winning over diners and earning him this year’s title.

The highly anticipated HCA annual signature event was held this year at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pokolbin and was hosted by two of Australia’s leading chefs and long-time supporters of the event, Colin Fassnidge of 4Fourteen and My Kitchen Rules and Matt Kemp of The Byron at Byron.

The first course, a Scampi Cocktail, was prepared by Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant). It was followed by a Carpaccio Parmigiana, cooked by Mitch Orr (ACME). The third course was Joel Bickford’s (Aria) Lamb Roast and for dessert, Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley) served diners a Strawberry Eton Mess.

Another winner on the day was Newcastle and Hunter regional hospitality pioneer Neil Slater. As a passionate advocate for the Hunter culinary industry, Neil 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 said 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 said.

Mr Maher said that in addition to being an incredible gastronomic experience, the Food Fight auction enabled the Association to offer support to young and aspiring chefs and apprentices, including the Brett Graham scholarship, which gives a young chef the opportunity to work with ex-Novocastrian Brett at his acclaimed London Michelin starred restaurant, The Ledbury.

‘We acknowledge the wonderful support of our Commercial Partners, auction prize contributors, and generous bidders’.

Christina Atherton