"Impossible to Describe the Beauty of This Place." - Top Chefs from Gourmet Escape 2015 on Your Margaret River Region
The three-day Margaret River Gourmet Escape held from Friday November 20 until Sunday November 22 included 31 satellite events throughout the region. The event hub, the Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate hosted 150 artisan producers, 70 wineries offering over 350 wines to try, interactive food and wine activities, along with hands-on attractions featuring world renowned chefs and wine experts. It is every foodie's dream.
The biggest festival of food and wine in Western Australia delivers extraordinary experiences to patrons, but also to visiting chefs. Here's what some of the world's best chefs had to say about Margaret River:
Marco Pierre White, chef & restaurateur, London, UK
“The world is a very beautiful jigsaw, made up of lots of little, beautiful pieces. But without question, Margaret River is one of the most beautiful pieces within that jigsaw.”
Antonio Carluccio, cook, restaurateur, writer
“Margaret River is wonderful. The beauty of the place and the wonderful produce is what I like. Yesterday I went abalone fishing and I was very impressed with the quality of abalone. The clean air is incredible. It's a wonderful part of the world.”
Fulvio Pierangelini, Rocce Forte Hotels, Italy
“We are in such beautiful surrounds and I love the sea. The sea is a passion of mine and here the colours are beautiful. The people in Margaret River are all so nice. I stopped at a wonderful market, which I love to do, to see, touch and smell the produce. I need to get to know the produce of this area, learn about it and respect the ingredients. That is the basis of my job, of every chef's job, is to respect the ingredients. The produce is wonderful here.”
Shane Osborn, Arcane, Hong Kong
“I've been to Margaret River about six times over the past ten years and it's changed a lot, changed for the better. Margaret River is something very unique. Smiths Beach is beautiful, my kids love it. I love the space and the people, especially the people. People here are happy and show that true Aussie hospitality. They look you in the eye and shake your hand. I love the hospitality, and that's the business we're in, the hospitality business. The food and produce here is incredible. In Hong Kong we don't have the space to grow our own food – everyone in Margaret River has a connection to food or wine. Even when you go to people's houses, they have veggie gardens in their backyard and want to show you what they're growing, and I love that.”
Ryan Clift, The Tippling Club, Singapore
“This is my second trip to Margaret River. I love the beauty of Margaret River, driving along Caves Road from one winery to the next, and I love the wine. The produce here is fantastic. I don't think you can get a bad meal in Margaret River to be honest. I'm cooking at Vasse Felix at the moment and to walk about the back and just start picking stuff is amazing. I miss that living in Singapore, everything is imported. My courtesy driver went out at 5am this morning and came back with two crayfish for me from his craypots – I wish I could do that! You're really spoilt for ingredients here. It's a beautiful, beautiful part of the world.”
Aaron Carr, Vasse Felix, Margaret River
“Visiting chefs are surprised with our produce and pristine environment. To come here from overseas, walk down the beach, forage for fresh ingredients in the morning for a dinner we're cooking that night just blew them away. The clean pristine environment and amazing produce is what really impresses. And the camaraderie among chefs, the friendliness – they love that.”
David Moyle, Franklin, Tasmania
“I was in Margaret River about four years ago. I like the beaches of the region and I love being near the water. At Smiths Beach where I'm staying, the beaches are stunning. The landscape is so unique and so definitively Australian. It doesn't feel like anywhere else, it's unique. The energy and the ocean – it's angry and peaceful at the same time. It's dramatic. The ocean is fierce, but so calm in the shallows. I've already been for a swim this morning and I've brought my board with me so hopefully I'll get a surf in.”
Matt Stone, Oakridge, Yarra Valley, Victoria
“I've been to every Margaret River Gourmet Escape and actually started my cooking career here. I love so many things about Margaret River – the people, the produce, the terrain and mix between ocean and forest. There's such diversity, which also reflects in the produce. The stuff from the ocean is amazing, from the paddocks is amazing, and the wild food is fantastic. Best of all, the people are so, so welcoming. The local chefs bend over backwards to help us, and there's a genuine welcoming feeling. People are happy here, and no wonder, they live in such a wonderful part of the world. It makes me want to come back here for much longer than just a weekend – it'll happen one day.”
Mark Best, Marque, Sydney
“I love the different flora and fauna – a unique combination of the beaches, forests, how the hills are and the light. Even driving down from Perth, when you get here you know you're in a little oasis. I'd like to spend a week or two in a beach house in Bunker Bay and just do nothing. The region is beautiful.”
Richard Ousby, Stokehouse, Melbourne
“I love the wide open space, the beaches, the wineries – you can't go wrong with a glass of wine from this region, and I love how relaxing it is. I'd love to spend time here and relax until the cows come home. Maybe I'd go and see a few cows too. I'd love to spend time in Margaret River just chilling out.
To hear the crash of the waves as you wake up, is one of those beautiful things that never grows old.
Everyone is very welcoming, it's all very beautiful. Every road you drive on to get somewhere, you are in picturesque countryside, and I feel lost every left or right I take. It's absolutely beautiful. If I come back again I'll definitely be tagging on a couple of days each side.
It is very different to other parts of Australia. This wine region is so vast and remote that it has its own identity. It's not like the Hunter Valley for example, it's very different in that way. I guess what's so nice is that it's so vast and untouched.”
Scott Bridger, Bib & Tucker, Perth
“Margaret River is my go-to whenever I have a few days off. We bring the kids and it ticks all the boxes. It's got great produce, good beaches and I've got a lot of friends who live down here, and it's where we want to end up living later in life. It's got a great community feel – someone grows this, someone grows that and they swap radishes for lettuces. That old school sense – people are into bee-keeping, fermenting and the old traditions. It's a really beautiful place.
You can find your own little beach that yours for the day. It's so beautiful. There aren't many beaches around these days that are untouched. It's what brings tourists here, it's not the big hotels, it's the ruggedness of it.
We have to come down here to get produce, it's all grown in this region. A lot of the fruit and vegetables are grown down here, because it's got more rainfall than we do in Perth. The marron is amazing. The truffles in Manjimup. I could sit here all day! We use about 80 per cent WA produce in the restaurant and a lot of it comes from the South West. We have a good relationship with the farmers.
Lack of WiFi in some ways is what people are looking for. They want to get away from it, if they're coming down south it's for a getaway, to be surrounded by nature and good food and surf. It's the real things in life. You can disappear and you have a good excuse for it.”
Michael Elfwing, Cape Lodge, Margaret River
“I've been in Margaret River for two years now. I love the clean air, the scenery – impossible to describe the beauty of this place in one or two words. The weather is great and I love that there's a seasonal change. Visiting chefs have commented that you can actually smell the trees, you can smell the bush, and smell the ocean. Our clean, bright, fresh climate surprises a lot of them, especially those that come from big cities. And the produce of course, it's amazing. We love living down here, it's spectacular to spend time outdoors, take my wife, son and our three dogs for a long walk on the beach and enjoy a winery lunch or pizza up the road. It's great.”
Eamon Sullivan, Louis Baxter, May Street Larder, Bib & Tucker
“I've only just started enjoying the Margaret River region. I'm really enjoying exploring it, the wine, the food and produce – the protein, cheese, diary and all amazing. At the launch last night at Meelup Beach, it felt like we were in a photo, just amazing views.”
Tony Howell, Margaret River Hospitality Group – Morries, The Common, White Elephant Beach Cafe
“As a chef, I'm excited to meet other great chefs from all over the world, see their ideas and see how they use WA products. Without a doubt the Gourmet Escape has helped raise the profile of Margaret River as a food destination and I love that the visiting chefs, some of the best in the world, leave raving about the place. It makes me feel incredibly privileged to live here.”
Joost Bakker, Artist Melbourne
“I'm a botanist and the diversity of flora here is incredible. I went for a short walk this morning and saw five plants that I'd never seen before. I also saw this huge bee – I think it was a bee, it was about the size of my thumb and I've never seen an insect like that anywhere – it sounded like a helicopter next to my ear. Just incredible. The native ingredients are amazing, and that's what we should be eating because they grow everywhere without pesticides, chemicals or anything.”
Gaggan Anand, Gaggan, Bangkok
“The thing I like best is the wilderness and the peace. I love the weather. We don't get this in Thailand. It's warm in the day and pleasant in the night. It's incredible and beautiful, and very surprising. I didn't know that the ingredients were so fresh and tasty. Back at home the lobster is not that sweet.
When you look at the landscape, it's incredible. It's similar to what you see in Italy or France or California, where you have the sea and the hills, and on the slopes there are the vineyards.
The wines are very good value for money. I'm really interested to connect with people who are exporting wines from this region and Western Australia. That would help me to sell them in the restaurant. Because now I know the area, I know the vineyards are not very big, and I like to give customers things that are not locally available and then I can actually show the influence and inspirations that I get through my travels.”