Melbourne’s famous Food & Wine Festival headlines some of the world’s hottest acts in chef-dom, with a series of Masterclasses held in the city centre that attract hundreds of diners passionate for great food.
The popular events also hold an almost magical appeal for aspiring chefs, hungry for a glimpse of a culinary rock god coolly creating their complex signature dish with nothing but the best ingredients, years of skill and practice, and an enviable base of supreme grace under pressure.
The ultimate for hospitality up-and-comers is to wrangle the chance to work behind-the-scenes helping to prep for each show’s big reveal – the world-famous master chef’s special dish.
It’s a heavenly gig to get. And exactly what Bruno Maciel, a promising young food and beverage graduate, was served when he was chosen as one of ServiceIQ’s All Stars team to experience this year’s Melbourne festival. It’s also the perfect entre for Bruno who is about to start a ServiceIQ Diploma in Hospitality Management.
Funded by the Hospitality Training Trust (HTT), the All Stars trip gave Bruno and two others a rare opportunity to gain insights into the technique, style and cooking philosophy of leading chefs, play an important role in big culinary productions, and polish their skills with tips and tricks from top world experts.
Bruno, who is Duty Manager at Auckland’s De Fontein Belgian Beer Café in Mission Bay, worked eagerly for the chefs at all eight Masterclasses; table setting, serving food and drinks, and quality control – which meant he got to taste each prize dish on every menu.
“The most amazing flavour was an espresso martini that had been aged for six months.” Says Bruno.
He was particularly delighted by the pared-back approach of Danish chef Paul Cunningham, who brought his take on Nordic cuisine to diners down-under.
“Paul is a really simple, down-to-earth family guy who doesn’t care too much about fashion or trends. Instead, he says that you’ve got to be happy about what you do to be able to create good food and serve people well,” says Bruno. “For him, happiness is a sign of progress.”
Before each show, Bruno and his team were given a full briefing by the master chef to make sure the service went off without a hitch. The military-like precision and management impressed him.
“The chefs told us exactly how everything was going to happen and how we were going to run the food. We also went through each item on the menu and had to memorise everything about the ingredients and how things were cooked to be able to provide perfect service to the customers,” says Bruno.
“I could see that when everything is done right – great food, helpful serving staff, beautiful cooking aromas, ambient lighting – it plays on the subconscious and feels right to be there.”
The 10-day adventure was invaluable and inspiring, says Bruno: “I went to as many events, got as much experience and spoke to as many people as I could to get the best out of such a great opportunity.
“I want to make a difference in people’s quality of life. If I can help customers go home smiling, I feel good.”
The most enchanting experience of the Festival remains a bit of a mystery; at the end of a street and behind a hidden door, was a bar with no name where he was served dazzling cocktails in beautiful glasses and some of the most amazing food he had ever tasted.
“I took a picture of the street to help me find it again one day,” says Bruno.