FIVE MINUTES WITH: KYLE WHITBOURNE
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Meet Kyle Whitbourne.  Kyle has been a member of the Hunter Culinary Association for two years before recently taking on a role as a committee member at the beginning of 2017 and is doing a stellar job! 

We caught up with Kyle recently to find out about his career as a chef.

1. Where do you work and what is your role? 

I am Head Chef for Restaurant Mason Catering.

2. The best part of your job?

The feeling after service when you stop for a moment and take a breath to reflect. Customers are fed and happy, fridges that you spent the day stocking are now empty, kitchen banter starts up and the team pushes on. There is real satisfaction in that moment for me.

3. What drew you to a career in hospitality?

As a teenager my first job was working as a kitchen hand on weekends at a busy café. I always loved food as a kid; I also studied hospitality and food tech at school, so from a young age I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do for a career. I don’t feel that any one aspect drew me in, it was a combination of things. Getting to try different foods, the structure of a kitchen brigade, the hustle of service, making the kitchen spotless and organised, satisfied customers, comradery and it’s an industry that even if the establishment is quiet there is always something to do.

4. Have you had career mentors?

There has been a few chefs that I have chosen to work with as I feel they are closest to how I like to cook. Throughout my career, I’ve worked in cafes, hotels, pubs and fine dining restaurants. Each job and brigade of chefs have done things differently. Whether that is in a culinary sense or how it is operated and managed. From each position some things have resonated with me and that is now reflected in how I work, cook and operate today. This also applies to negative aspects; I try to make a conscious effort not to adopt certain attitudes or practices, which perhaps impacted me more as a young chef.

5. If we were visiting the Hunter for this first time what would be three things you would recommend to see or do?

- Hunter Valley skydiving

- Bitter & Twisted Beer Festival

- Wander Newcastle and discover the many great eating and drinking spots - there are so many to try!

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Gus Maher
in the media: The Newcastle Herald
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 From left to right: Mitch Orr (Acme) Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza) Joel Bickford (Aria) Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant)

From left to right: Mitch Orr (Acme) Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza) Joel Bickford (Aria) Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant)

His scampi cocktail was the dish of the day, edging out Hamish Watt’s strawberry Eton mess, Mitch Orr’s carpaccio parmigiana and Joel Bickford’s lamb roast. All four chefs were asked to create unique takes on classic dishes that have stood the test of time.

The ninth annual Food Fight was held at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and hosted by two of Australia’s leading chefs and long-time supporters of the event, Colin Fassnidge and Matt Kemp, and association chair Gus Maher. An in-form Fassnidge thanked the equally amusing Kemp for helping him dress for the occasion, despite his “cold hands”.

On a more serious note, though, the auction raised $40,000 to support industry scholarships and food rescue charity, OzHarvest. 

Read the full story HERE

Gus Maher
in the media: Hospitality Magazine
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 From left to right: Joel Bickford (Aria) Mitch Orr (Acme) Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant) Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza)

From left to right: Joel Bickford (Aria) Mitch Orr (Acme) Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant) Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza)

The ninth annual Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) Food Fight took place this week, with four top chefs battling it out for the title.

With around 300 guests in attendance, the event saw a total of $40,000 raised to support industry scholarships and food rescue charity OzHarvest.

Chefs Joel Bickford (Aria), Mitch Orr (ACME), Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant) and Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley) were tasked with creating unique takes on classic dishes that have stood the test of time.

Fawkner took out the win, with his dish of scampi, bisque emulsion, grilled lettuce, native plants and seaweed oil winning over diners and earning him this year’s title.

To read the full story click HERE

Gus Maher
in the media: foodService News
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The annual Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) Food Fight took place on Monday June 18 with four Sydney and Hunter Region chefs battling it out to help raise $40,000 for industry scholarships and food rescue charity, OzHarvest.

Held at Pokolbin's Crowne Plaza Hotel, the Food Fight was hosted by chefs and long-time supporters of the HCA's signature event, Colin Fassnidge (Banksia Hotel, My Kitchen Rules) and Matt Kemp (The Byron at Byron).

And creating the feast for the 300 guests were Sydney and Hunter Region-based chefs, Joel Bickford (Aria), Mitch Orr (ACME), Frank Fawkner (EXP. Restaurant) and Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley), who each looked after a different course.

Fawkner kicked off the event with a scampi cocktail, which was followed by Orr's second course of a carpaccio Parmigiana. Bickford prepared a lamb roast for mains, and Watt rounded of the lunch with a strawberry Eton mess.

Diners were then given the opportunity to vote for their favourite course, which ultimately saw Fawkner awarded top honours.

Read the full story at foodService News online HERE

Gus Maher
FRANK FAWKNER OF EXP RESTAURANT WINS 2018 FOOD FIGHT!
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FOOD FIGHT VICTORY FORGES NEW CLASSICS

It was the annual clash of the pans as four of Australia’s leading chefs cooked off at the ninth annual Hunter Culinary Association (HCA) Food Fight.

The chef’s challenge - working their magic to create unique takes on classic dishes that have stood the test of time - was much enjoyed by the 300 guests. The Food Fight auction then raised $40,000 to support industry scholarships and food rescue charity, OzHarvest.

The hotly-contested battle saw chefs Joel Bickford (Aria), Mitch Orr (ACME), Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant) and Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley) going head to head. The final victor was Frank Fawkner, with his Scampi Cocktail winning over diners and earning him this year’s title.

The highly anticipated HCA annual signature event was held this year at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pokolbin and was hosted by two of Australia’s leading chefs and long-time supporters of the event, Colin Fassnidge of 4Fourteen and My Kitchen Rules and Matt Kemp of The Byron at Byron.

The first course, a Scampi Cocktail, was prepared by Frank Fawkner (EXP Restaurant). It was followed by a Carpaccio Parmigiana, cooked by Mitch Orr (ACME). The third course was Joel Bickford’s (Aria) Lamb Roast and for dessert, Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley) served diners a Strawberry Eton Mess.

Another winner on the day was Newcastle and Hunter regional hospitality pioneer Neil Slater. As a passionate advocate for the Hunter culinary industry, Neil was awarded the Association’s highest honour of outstanding contribution by an Individual.

Former long-time HCA Chairman Ben Neil was also honoured with life membership of the Association.

HCA Chair Gus Maher said the generosity of members and guests was incredible and he had been humbled by the response to the event.

‘Everyone was genuinely impressed with the quality of the food which the chefs presented,’ he said.

Mr Maher said that in addition to being an incredible gastronomic experience, the Food Fight auction enabled the Association to offer support to young and aspiring chefs and apprentices, including the Brett Graham scholarship, which gives a young chef the opportunity to work with ex-Novocastrian Brett at his acclaimed London Michelin starred restaurant, The Ledbury.

‘We acknowledge the wonderful support of our Commercial Partners, auction prize contributors, and generous bidders’.

Gus Maher