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Meet Australia’s next champion of the food and wine scene, and celebrate its newest Legends: Melbourne Food & Wine Festival announces winner of Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship and Legends Hall of Fame inductees

July 25, 2019 Accolades No Comments Email Email

Melbourne Food & Wine Festival announced the winner of the international Hostplus Hospitality
Scholarship, plus eight inductees to the 2019 Legends Hall of Fame at its industry awards event on
Monday 22 July 2019.Following a rigorous four-month selection process, Julie Davaine, general manager of four venues
(Fred’s, Charlie Parker’s, The Paddington and The Chicken Shop) in the Merivale group in Sydney, has been named the winner of the 2019 Hostplus Hospitality Scholarship.

Now in its sixth year, the Scholarship offers Davaine a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work across three countries in internationally acclaimed hospitality businesses. Upon her return to Australia, Davaine will continue to build on her industry experience over a year-long mentorship with a local industry leader.

Growing up in Paris, Davaine developed a passion for hospitality working at a brasserie while studying theatre and arts. Determined to push herself outside of her comfort zone, she moved to Sydney armed with just a suitcase and a few words of English. Ten years after joining the Merivale group as a food runner at Sushi E, Davaine is now general manager of The Paddington precinct, overseeing four celebrated hospitality venues and more than 150 employees.

The judging panel were particularly impressed with Davaine’s inspiring leadership skills and her desire to shape the future of Australia’s hospitality industry. She is passionate about creating a supportive working environment while ensuring career progression opportunities are equal for women and men with families.

The Scholarship is open to hospitality workers aged 22 to 35, and 2019’s applications represented a
diverse and highly skilled cross-section of the business, from sommeliers and coffee professionals, to chefs and front-of-house. This year’s runners-up were Laura Dyba, restaurant manager at The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery, just outside Hobart, and Saba Alemayoh, owner/manager at Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant in inner-city Melbourne.

The awards event also celebrated food and wine industry leaders of longer standing as eight local identities were inducted into the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Legends program.

Launched in 1993, the Legends program pays tribute to the leaders, ground-breakers and visionaries of Victoria’s food and drink scene. Joining this prestigious group of industry stars, the 2019 inductees are:

• Chef/restaurateur/hospitality professional – Con Christopoulos Con Christopoulos is one of the most prolific restaurateurs in Melbourne. With more than 30 years in the industry, Con made his name as one of the operators behind such defining Melbourne venues such as the Supper Club, The European, Journal, Siglo and City Wine Shop; s well as Kirk’s Wine Bar, French Saloon, Neapoli, Butchers Diner and more recently Angel Music Bar. With no signs of slowing down, he’s known as a man with the golden touch and a gift for seeing outside the square.

• Food producer/retailer/advocate – John Portelli, Enoteca Sileno
A pioneer of the Italian-Australian community, John Portelli has been instrumental in shaping
Lygon Street’s culinary offerings and atmosphere. For nearly 20 years, John worked at the
landmark Lygon Street Foodstore introducing true, authentic, regional Italian traditions to
Australia, a tradition he took to the next level when he joined his wife Rosemary and his fatherin-law Luigi Di Santo at Enoteca Sileno in 1987, the store that continues to set the standard for
premium Italian food and wine in Australia.

• Drink producer/retailer/advocate – Nat White OAM
Considered the godfather of Mornington Peninsula winemaking, Nat White wrote the opening
chapter of the region’s modern wine history. After travelling through the wine regions of France in
1965, Nat White returned to Australia with an ambition to grow his own grapes and make his own
wine. Ten years later, Nat and his wife purchased a block of land on the Peninsula and built the
first commercial winery in the region. Nat enrolled in a winemaking degree in 1977 and released
his first vintage in 1980. Nat’s enthusiasm and encouragement of young winemakers in the
region.

• Communicator/educator – Richard Cornish
Richard Cornish is an award-winning author, broadcaster and food writer whose love of the land
led him to explore the issues around food: where it comes from, how it gets to us, and why some
foods taste better than others. He has written five books on Spanish food with Frank Camorra, a
book on Mexican food, and co-authored Phillippa’s Home Baking. He is a former creative
director of Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, was cast as the commentator for Iron Chef
Australia, and has a long running column in Good Food called “Brain Food”. Former editor at
large with Lost magazine he continues to work in regional Victoria promoting food and arts and
has recently taken an ambassadorial role with Cultural Tourism Victoria.

• Local hero – Annie Smithers, chef/owner, Du Fermier
Annie Smithers is one of Australia’s most highly regarded chefs and one of the first to truly
epitomise the paddock to plate ethos. With a career spanning three decades, Annie has spent
the last 25 years in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria. Her Trentham restaurant, Du Fermier, is a
tiny establishment where she does all the cooking, starting with baking her own baguettes and
offering a menu that features vegetables picked daily from her kitchen garden located on her
small farm in Lyonville.

• Hostplus Trailblazer – Mike Russell, Baker Bleu
Mike Russell has worked in some of Australia’s best bakeries (including Baker D. Chirico and
Sydney bakeries Iggy’s and Bourke Street Bakery) before opening his own business, Baker
Bleu, in Elsternwick at the beginning of 2017. Initially catering to the neighbourhood, he now
supplies bread to some of Australia’s most renowned establishments, including Attica. To meet
the high demand for his popular baked goods, Mike expanded his business opening another
bakery in Caulfield North in May 2019. He has been referred to as “the future of baking in
Australia”.

• Honorary Legend – John Haddad AO
John Haddad was chairman of Melbourne Food & Wine Festival from 2004 to 2018 and
continues to support the organisation in his current role as emeritus chair. John’s contribution to
raising the profile of Victoria’s food, tourism and events industries throughout his rich and varied
career is considerable. John’s leadership and expertise in Victoria’s hotel and hospitality industry
has elevated Melbourne Food and Wine Festival to its current standing as a world-class
celebration, while creating a platform to showcase the breadth of quality experiences in Victoria.

• Honorary Legend – Natalie O’Brien AM
This honorary Legend award pays a fitting tribute to Natalie O’Brien’s tireless work in the fields of
tourism, food and events. As CEO of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and Food + Wine
Victoria for more than 15 years, Natalie demonstrated year-on-year growth and contribution to
economic impact, visitation and brand profile globally for Victoria. Natalie now heads Natalie
O’Brien & Co; recognition for her enduring contributions to hospitality include bring named
among Australia’s 50 most influential people in food in Gourmet Traveller magazine.

The 2019 Legends inductees join more than 150 leaders from the food, wine and hospitality trade.

Theprogram recognises an individual’s contribution to the industry and celebrates their role in shaping and sustaining Victoria’s international reputation as a centre of food, wine and hospitality excellence.

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