Legends in Their Own Time

By Jill Dupleix

It’s a word we throw around very easily these days. ‘You’re a legend’ we say, if someone brings us a coffee. But the real legends among us are those who do something extraordinary that affects not just us but the wider community – and not just now, but way into the future.

Victoria’s evolution into the powerful food and wine landscape it is today has been fueled by thought-leaders, ground-breakers and visionaries who also happen to be great chefs, farmers, bakers, wine-makers, teachers, brewers, food and wine writers and restaurateurs. It’s why Melbourne Food & Wine initiated the Legends program in 1993, to honour them and their place in Victoria’s food and wine culture.

People like Stephanie Alexander, who created the Kitchen Garden Foundation in 2004 to help children create positive food habits by growing and cooking their own food. Like pioneering Holy Goat cheese-makers Carla Meurs and Ann-Marie Monda; acclaimed restaurateurs Hermann Schneider of Two Faces, Mietta O’Donnell of Mietta’s and Gilbert Lau of the Flower Drum; and innovative baker Kate Reid of Collingwood’s New York Times-approved Lune Croissanterie.

Legends are the bricks with which Melbourne’s powerful and innovative food and wine culture is built. Ordinary people who have done extraordinary things for their community, and who paved the way for how we eat and drink today.

And the best thing, is they keep coming. Every year, a hand-picked advisory panel gets to nominate, debate and ultimately celebrate five new Legends as well as a TrailBlazer award for someone 40 years or younger who is making an outstanding contribution to the Melbourne food and wine industry.  

Food Producer, Retailer or Advocate, 2018 Giancarlo Giusti 

Giancarlo Giusti co-founded the tiny Grinders Coffee House in Lygon Street Carlton in 1962, where he started roasting his own coffee beans (often shirtless, while singing Italian opera), on site.  By 1998 he was quoted as saying, ‘When I first opened in 1962, Europeans, especially Italians, were the main customers. Then slowly the change came. Now they’re mostly Australian.’  Giancarlo kick-started Melbourne’s obsession with great coffee as a vital part of its strong dining culture, educating a generation of café-owners, baristas and drinkers.

*not pictured. The award was accepted by Giancarlo's daughter and granddaughter in his absence.  

Chef/Restaurateur or Hospitality Professional, 2018 Jason Lui

Jason Lui of Flower Drum is one of a new breed of restaurateur, quietly working to bring Flower Drum and its superlative levels of service to greater heights. In part, he does it to ensure his father Anthony Lui’s fine cuisine – championing some of Victoria’s finest produce – reaches a new generation of diners.  ‘For me, the wine is as important as the food, which is as important as the service’, says Jason. ‘It’s the holy trinity of Melbourne dining.’

Communicator and Educator, 2018 Tony Tan 

Chef, cookery teacher and cookbook author, Malaysian-born Tony Tan is someone who takes enormous pleasure in turning people on to good food from all cultures – and this, in proudly multi-cultural Melbourne.

‘It’s not just about what we consume, but how we appreciate each other’s cultures and make them our own,’ says Tony. ‘Being a migrant myself, I’ve been very aware that sharing my own cuisine and culture is a way of giving back to the food and wine community of Melbourne and Victoria, which has been so kind to me.’

Wine and Beverage Producer, Retailer or Advocate, 2018 Kathleen Quealy

Kathleen Quealy of Quealy Winemakers has long been a proud ambassador and a force for change on the Mornington Peninsula. By forming the pioneering T’Gallant with Kevin McCarthy in the 1990’s, redefining what regional dining could be with T’Gallant’s La Baracca pizzeria and Spuntino Bar, and championing innovative new varietals such as Pinot Gris for the Peninsula, she has constantly changed the wine landscape and challenged the status quo.

‘We were part of a revolution in food and wine’ she recalls ‘That era made the idea of drinking beautiful wine more accessible to a whole new generation.’

Local Hero, 2018 Hana Assafiri

Introduced in 2017, the Local Hero award is for those who effect change at a grass-roots or community level. Hana Assafiri’s Moroccan Soup Bar in North Fitzroy has provided employment and training – and so much more – for marginalised Muslim women in the community for 20 years. For her, it’s all about bringing people together at the table in celebration, with respect, dignity, and a really good chickpea bake. ‘For them, food used to be a source of subjugation. Now, it’s a source of empowerment,’ she says. ‘Through adversity, opportunity sprouts.’

HOSTPLUS Trailblazer 2018 Simon Schulz

Simon Schulz of Timboon’s Schulz Organic Dairy, grandson of the late Hermann Schulz (Legend, 2011), is trailblazing a regenerative path for fellow dairy farmers with his full-cream organic milk, initiating innovations that minimise packaging waste and distribution practices. ‘It’s not a commodity, and it’s not about volume’ he says. ‘It’s about nurturing the soil and creating a healthy ecosystem in which the cow can shine.’