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2023 Annual Report Letter

For the first time since COVID, the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival made a full program return in March with more than 200 events across a 10-day program which was attended by more than 65,000 happy Festival goers. And this was just the beginning of a jam-packed calendar in 2023.

From celebrated international chefs cooking in Melbourne’s most prestigious dining rooms to community events across the city and free and fun activity at Fed Square, Food + Drink Victoria delivered a Festival that celebrated the spectrum of food and drink experiences that make Melbourne a world-class dining destination.

An impressive array of international guests celebrated with us including Melbourne’s own Curtis Stone who joined us from LA, New York’s Danny Bowien, Lee Tiernan and Jeremy Chan who jetted in from London and Kyoto’s Yoshihiro Imai. Alla Wolf-Tasker and Natalie Paull – two local legends – thrilled diners at the World’s Longest Lunch and World’s Longest Brunch respectively while Victor Liong, Shannon Martinez and Adam d’Sylva brought their own brands of magic to our collaboration with 7-Eleven, The Convenient Store, which stood proud on the edge of Fed Square over the 10 days serving delicious food and drinks showcasing Victorian produce and producers.

Speaking of Fed Square, there were sausages designed by celebrities, a fair which celebrated Melbourne’s famed cakers and bakers, cheesy goodness from That’s Amore Cucina and a Festival Bar with drinks by Caretaker’s Cottage and food by Tom Sarafian. And to top it all off, more than 190 bespoke, one-off experiences ran in restaurants and bars, cafes and pubs across the city as part of our Special Events and Crawl and Bite programs.

The program was supported by steadfast collaborators including our destination partner Visit Victoria, the state government and the City of Melbourne as well as Festival partners including Singapore Airlines, La Trobe Financial, Montague Apples, Brick Lane Brewing, Baker’s Delight, Lexus, Mecca, CAPI, Cargo Crew, Tahbilk, Accor, Herald Sun and many more.

The team then turned their attention to planning the Regional Edition of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival – the third dedicated regional edition Food + Drink Victoria has delivered with 5000 attendees across the 2023 program. This 10 days of culinary excellence in country Victoria saw us celebrate the riches of Ballarat, the Yarra Valley and Gippsland, distilling the strengths of each region. We kicked off in Ballarat with a weekend of fine dining staged in some of the town’s less likely venues. In the lush pastures of the Yarra Valley, we saw collaborations with wineries, cherry farms, brewers and more. Both regions hosted their own edition of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s signature event, the World Longest Lunch – in Ballarat, at The Goods Shed and in the Yarra at Hubert Estate. In Gippsland, the program was anchored by the Village Feast at the Glade in Inverloch, a day filled with great snacks, awesome drinks and fabulous music with food talents including Adam Liaw, Paul Carmichael and Emelia Jackson. We celebrated the might of Victorian drinking at the Festival bars and the music program included ARIA award-winning Alex Lloyd. Thanks to Visit Victoria, Yarra Ranges Tourism, Destination Gippsland and City of Ballarat for their support in this celebration of the regions.

In August, we celebrated at the grand Reine & La Rue with our annual Legends, Trailblazer and Scholarship program. The historic former Melbourne Stock Exchange site was a fitting venue for this prestigious gathering of industry with Thi Le of Anchovy famed crowned Trailblazer of the Year and Perth’s Stefanie Wee being awarded the national winner of the Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship. The Legends inducted into the 2023 Hall of Fame program were: Roslyn Grundy (communicator/educator), John Dench (food producer), Tash Conte (drink advocate), Boeing Cho (restaurateur), Sallie Jones (local hero) and Simone and Ian Carson (sustainability champions).

The Drink Victorian campaign, an initiative designed to get more Victorian drinks on Victorian lists, returned for a second year. Food + Drink Victoria delivers this campaign in collaboration with the Drinks Alliance, a group comprising of Cider Australia, Independent Brewers Association, Spirits Victoria, Wine Victoria and Food + Drink Victoria. Key activities in the program included a mass tasting for 700 hospitality professionals and 250 producers, 110 hospitality venues taking part in consumer-facing programming in their venues and a famils program into the regions. This program continues to deliver business connections between producers and Victorian hospitality businesses and ultimately strong sales of Victorian drinks into hospitality venues.

Another major project which ran the course of the year was an update to the Melbourne Food & Wine website. Food + Drink Victoria worked with agencies Bone Digital and The Company You Keep to replatform the website, upgrading the user experience and the overall design. This has resulted in improved discoverability and traffic and the opportunity to better service our partners with increased rich media assets.

The team was also consumed this year with a Melbourne Food & Wine Festival funding proposal which ran the length of the year, commencing in March. Congratulations to the team for running this thorough process which secured a two-year funding agreement.

And in other news, Food + Drink Victoria moved premises from the 27th floor of Collins Square to level four at 99 King Street where the team now shares a space with music festival Always Live.

Food + Drink Victoria continues to build on its reputation for delivering excellence – in events, marketing and content – borne out by the increasing number of commissions we are receiving from government departments as well as the private sector and I look forward to the team continuing to leverage these opportunities.

Pippa Crawford,
Chair, Food + Drink Victoria