Who to see at the Theatre of Ideas in 2019

Published on February 22 2019.

Photo: Kate Reid

The Theatre of Ideas, Melbourne Food & Wine Festival's talk series, is back for 2019 with some white-hot names taking the stage to talk about the hot topics in food and wine. Gender in restaurants, the price of sustainability, creativity, obsession and more will be tackled by the likes of Peter Gilmore, Martin Benn, Vicki Wild and the team from Joe Beef.

Part of the line-up at The House of Food and Wine in 2019, the Theatre of Ideas supported by The New York Times is included in every ticket to The House, so you can spend your day listening to talks or break it up with chef demonstrations, wine tastings, food trucks and more. Here's what will be discussed.

Saturday March 9

Surviving the Apocalypse
Host: Sam Sifton
Panellists: David McMillian, Frederic Morin and Derek Dammann
Where do cooking and survival intersect in 2019? Does foie gras have a place in a bunker shelter, what’s the best Beaujolais for your bug-out bag – all this and the whole Joe Beef story from Montreal’s coolest restaurant crew talking about their unique brand of cooking and their smash-hit book.

Australian Asia, Asian Australia
Host: Pat Nourse
Panellists: Jowett Yu and Dan Hong
Australia is in Asia. Asia is in Australia. What does this mean to the people cooking Asian food in restaurants? Dan Hong is a chef with Vietnamese-Australian heritage cooking Cantonese food in Sydney at Mr Wong and his friend and Mr Wong alumnus Jow Yu is a chef with Taiwanese-Canadian heritage now cooking Cantonese food in Hong Kong and Shanghai at Ho Lee Fook and Canton Disco. Who gets to cook Chinese food in 2019? And what makes it Chinese?

Gender and Restaurants
Host: Dan Stock
Panellists: Alla Wolf-Tasker, Shane Delia and Shannon Martinez
Do women and men cook differently? Eat differently? Taste differently? If they do, why? If they don’t, should they? In striving for equality should we also look to celebrate difference?

Kate Reid: The Power of Obsession
Host: Sam Sifton
What drives a person to chase their Formula One dream to the other side of the world? What drives a person to pursue precision in pastry beyond anything seen at home? What drives people to stand in line for an hour for a baked snack? Is it the same force? Is it always a force for good?

Sunday March 10

Country, Community, Sustainability: Dan Hunter’s Brae 
Host: Pat Nourse
Dan Hunter is widely regarded as one of the country’s most innovative chefs but his far-reaching ambitions for Brae, which include a holistic food experience for his guests and a zero-footprint farming philosophy, mark him as one of Australia’s most thoughtful food identities.

Are We Running Out of Coffee?
Host: Dani Valent
Panellists: Elika Rowell, Fleur Studd
Demand for more and better coffee in Australia and around the world has never been greater, yet land for growing coffee and the livelihoods of the people growing it are becoming more marginal by the day. Are we killing the very thing we love? What can we do about it?

Is Sustainability Sustainable?
Host: Sam Sifton
Panellists: Alla Wolf Tasker, Jill Dupleix, and James Whetlor
Water. Power. Gas. People. Waste. The land. The air. The rivers. The sea. Between looking out for the environment, the community, their staff and their own wellbeing, do chefs and restaurateurs still have the time and energy to cook? Can we do it all? Where should our priorities lie in 2019?

Kirsha Kaechele: Eating the Problem
Host: Jill Dupleix
Consumerism, heal thyself! What if us getting a taste for the very creatures that are wreaking havoc on the environment were the answer to the world’s invasive-species woes? Could the market save us where regulation, policy and government have failed? Could our appetites be the answer?

Monday March 11

How to Drink Wine - and Why
Host: Max Allen
Panellists: Jane Lopes and Vanya Filipovic
When did drinking wine become so mired in controversy and crossfire? How? Why? And isn’t wine supposed to be fun, anyway?

Peter Gilmore: the Secret Life of Plants
Host: Palisa Anderson
In just a few generations we’ve forgotten whole libraries of information about the edible plant world, and given up our taste for countless species along the way. What have we lost? And what can we get back? Let plant-whisperer extraordinaire Peter Gilmore lead you down the garden path, in the best and tastiest of ways.

Chasing the Muse: Staying Creative in the Kitchen
Host: Jill Dupleix
Panellists: Martin Benn, Vicki Wild and Ryan Clift
Social media. Food festivals. Environmental and social activism. Merchandise. Television. Books. It was hard to find time for cooks to come up with fresh ideas back when all they had to do was cook. How do the innovators of today maintain their bandwidth? What does it mean to be creative in the kitchen?

Sam Sifton and Besha Rodell: Eating Australia, Inside and Out
Thanks to the internet, social media and an ever more global outlook, Australian food is now followed second to second on phones worldwide and read about in publications in London, Manhattan and beyond. What does Australia’s culinary scene look like from these vantages? What can we learn from them?