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Joel Bickford likes to keep things simple when it comes to food. The newly appointed head chef of Aria Restaurant in Sydney has a “less is more” approach and favours seasonal, regional produce.

At this year’s Hunter Culinary Association Food Fight, though, he will be forced to think outside the square to win the popular vote.

Bickford will take on chefs Frank Fawkner (, Mitch Orr (ACME) and Hamish Watt (Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley) in a hotly-contested battle to create a course that is a “new twist on a classic dish”. 

Bickford knows what course he’s preparing but has yet to decide on a dish. He needs to speak to the other chefs first “to make sure the menu flows”.

“It will need to be functional, given the amount of covers you need to do in a short period. Something simple and tasty,” Bickford said.

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Gus Maher