Meet our dedicated team of event
and marketing professionals linked
by a common passion for food,
wine and Festival fun.
Natalie O’Brien - CEO
My earliest memory of food is eating smoked oysters from the tin aged three as my mother prepared savouries for the dart players every second Tuesday evening in the family hotel.
Lara Main - Business Operations Manager
I first fell in love with food when I was 5yrs old and I was taught to eat oyster's natural and snails straight from the shell by my grandfather, followed by trips to Flinders to pick up fresh local Crayfish and Mussels. Food moved from a necessity to experiences on these days.
Ian Baxter - Accountant
I grew up on a dairy farm near Warragul - fresh milk (unpasteurised straight from the cow), fresh cream, fresh veal when an excess of calves and the market price too low, fresh rabbits from traps on a frosty morning. My mother taught me basic cooking at an early age so that I could take charge when she had an occasional trip away. This has come in handy ever since. As an accountant my work interests and responsibilities vary from those of the rest of the foodie team, but the best thing about this job is working amongst a team of young, vibrant and creative people, which helps to keep me feeling alive and young.
Krystle Williams - Administration Assistant
I love nothing more than trying out a new recipe or whipping up a batch of cupcakes and watching friends and family dig in. Being fairly new to Melbourne I am loving exploring Melbourne’s foodie culture and what better way to be truly introduced than being a part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Team.
My earliest memory of cooking in the kitchen would be making sausage rolls with dad or eating mums famous Pavlova.
Jacky Sutton - Partnership Manager
Good food and the temptation of a delicious cocktail are the best ways to rally the troops for a fun and social night out. This social aspect associated with food and wine is pivotal to my love of the industry as I believe the best things in life are shared. You will often find me out and about sharing brunch with friends and indulging in my ultimate meal of bocconcini, basil and tomato pizza.
Lucy Stent - Partnership Coordinator
Sharing food is about ritual. In my household, this means a gathering of family and friends around the kitchen bench rather than the dinner table. Even if the table has been set beautifully, most of the time nothing beats standing by the kitchen sink or leaning over the bench top, drink in hand, watching and helping to prepare a meal whilst engaging in noisy conversation and laughter.
Fern Barrett - Strategic Program Manager
The celebration of devouring delicious comfort food over a bottle of vino within the company of family and friends is an ethos I was bought up with from a young age and still foster today. Being part of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival has further energized this by allowing greater exposure to the unique and exciting diversity our State offers from cutting edge hideaway dining spots and watering holes to producers making a real difference to our market bags. Why eat and drink anywhere else?
Sharlee Gibb - Gastronomy Program Manager
I love food and working for Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is my dream job. I have worked in the restaurant industry for many years both in Australia and abroad before starting at the Festival in mid 2008. I look after Langham Melbourne MasterClass as well as the broader umbrella event program coordinating over 200 events for the Festival period.
Jo-Ann Moody - Events Program Coordinator
So excited to join the Festival team after more than ten awesome years working in some of the world’s greatest restaurants. What I love about this industry is the fast pace of change and constant flow of new ventures.
You will often find me with a delighted smile on my face checking out the latest openings of restaurants, bars, cafes and food trucks as they spring to life, lighting up our city!
Jade Mayhew - Program Manager
A wise man once said 'a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine'. Food and wine play a starring role in my life and working for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is the perfect fit. The sounds from the table – chatting, slurping, clinking and bickering are like music to my ears. Feeding the clan is one of my greatest joys and reminds me what life is all about: love, laughter and food...glorious food!
Zenon Misko - Program Assistant
I had no choice in the matter. A Ukrainian heritage has made me obsessed with food. Whether it was contesting four brothers in the annual verenyky (stuffed dumplings) eating competition or searching for the perfect wine to match pickled herrings, the kitchen has always been central to my family. Now I fall asleep most nights outlining the following day’s menu, which starts with a double ristretto.
Arron Ollington - Event Manager
What is it? Where is it from? How do you make it? Can I try some?
These four questions have lead me to varying results over the years joy, shock, confusion, surprise, disgust, tears, wonder, illness and addiction.
Curiosity hasn’t killed me yet.
Ellie Rolland - Strategic Marketing and Communications Manager
Biggest piglet in our office? I reckon I come close.
The meals I’ve eaten, the glasses I’ve emptied. They’re defining, cherished, enriching and indelibly marked alongside my favourite memories.
What I’m drinking: my second large glass of ‘05 Bress Gold Chook Pinot Noir. Take my laptop away.
Natalie Duke - Assistant Marketing Manager
I have a fond appreciation of the art of the barista. My morning is not complete without a carefully crafted coffee from the nearest cafe. The personalities and unique blends that are found in the laneway cafes of Melbourne are truly fascinating. My perfect weekend date involves sitting in a quirky cafe; latte in one hand, a spoonful of cookies and cream cheesecake in the other.
Penny France - Assistant Public Relations Manager
I have been known to say that breakfast is only one of my favourite mealtimes. How could you possibly choose between breakfast, lunch and dinner? Three delicious opportunities to join with family and friends and take comfort in trusted favourites or try new taste combinations.
Fondest food memory? Family Sunday lunch enjoying my mum’s roast lamb (with home-made redcurrant jelly) followed by rhubarb crumble.