Chefs for the Gascoyne – behind the scenes

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Being part of the Food Service Industry doesn’t just stop when a dish is on the plate. It’s a circle built on strong relationships and mutual respect, yes there are hard yards, egos and heat but when one link in the chain is in trouble, the rest of us help with the load because together we can stay strong.

The event resembled a glittering, seamless confection of fabulous food, drink, service and support in Food bloggers’ and photographers’ images. However, to achieve that illusion at an outside catering event there is a backstory glittering with sweat, heavy lifting, pressure and an incredible team spirit.

Under a flawless autumn sky in Perth’s Urban Orchard 25 Chefs, countless volunteers and 200 punters helped to raise $25,000 for Gascoyne Growers knocked down by Cyclone Olwyn.

This is the story of the back-end of Chefs for the Gascoyne, and showcases the less photogenic skills of chefs, service staff, bumpers in and bumpers out, Sparkies and organisers.

The idea: Peter Manifis of Incontro and Don Hancey of Panorama Catering.

Pete and Don are well known for their integrity and generosity. They champion West Australian produce and commit to the relationships they have built with suppliers. Knowing that Cyclone Olwyn caused $10 million worth of damage to Gascoyne Growers, they wanted help. Don Hancey spoke for the chefs giving their time to the event; “This is about being grateful and paying forward and back. Many of us know farming families up there, we all use Carnarvon Produce and we want to use that produce again.”

When Don and Pete decide to do something, it happens with a tremendous amount of momentum. If you don’t climb aboard you will have to run to get out of the way, and as these guys are everywhere this leaves you no where to hide. Over forty food and beverage suppliers jumped on board to provide 25 chefs material for the most amazing small plate creations.

I caught up with Pete minutes before show time to find out how it was going

“I’m so grateful for all the people who have put in so much effort to make this happen today. It might have started with just a small idea but it’s grown in to this mammoth thing and who knows what’s going to happen after this? There’s going to be a big party after this I think, but not too much drinking cos I ‘m the liquor license holder.”

men only

Man Corner with Don Hancey’s fire pit: pic Mr Pun

The Behind the Scenes Brigade:

Veronica Jeffrey, Executive Director, Place Management at Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority,  was thrilled help; “We were approached and our immediate response was “Of Course! We have the perfect space.” It was a magical setting indeed.

before urban orchard

Urban Orchard: before

Let there be ‘Lectricity:

In event catering feeding the heavy lifters and people in blue singlets is just as important as getting that platter of gluten free vegan sushi to the top-billing act. Without the production crew’s input it’s all just a dim, quiet sing along.

Aaron Gill runs Big Bang Productions. He and his team specialise in site management and event logistics. As usual, Aaron Kept his cool while people pestered him for water and hand wash stations (guilty) and couldn’t turn on the charming fairly lights in their stalls (guilty again). The Big Bangers turn the vision of an event in to a fully functioning reality. Aaron working day is the longest with most demands. We think he enjoyed it though. He even cracked a smile towards the end.

aaron and pete needs credit

Aaron and Pete at staff briefing. pic LL RAS

People Power:

Key organizer Marissa Bielawski of Poach Pear chose hospitality expert Tania Kuba  to direct the volunteers. “It was a great day! It was fun getting involved with all the volunteers.  I just put my faith in people’s generous hearts.  My job was made easy with the help of the chefs, MRA guys and Big Bang productions with their call out to all friends, family and acquaintances from the hospitality industry.”

Tania K

Tania Kuba cheerfully directing front of house and kitchen help

Indeed, no chef or beverage stand went short handed and the students picked up tips from the pros such as always go out the front of your stand and look at it from a customer’s POV. Is the bin visible? Is it obvious, which way the queue goes?  The catering equivalent of checking your fly.

Dressing the set:

Phoebe Pun, who usually deals with marketing and corporate sponsorship at the Royal Agricultural Society, lent her bigger picture eye for detail to the day. Phoebe’s team helped with the coordination efforts needed to help bring this event together. It’s all very presenting heaving tables with irresistible small plates, but if customers can’t identify your wares they can’t choose. Phoebe provided signage, banners, the ties to put the banners up, trestle tables, cloths and all the things chefs didn’t bring in the cool boxes or lugs. Here’s her take on the day:

What a inspirational event to be able to help organise! I had the opportunity to meet some amazing farmers, producers and chefs and to help others connect and collaborate. Most importantly though, it was very satisfying to be able to help the Gascoyne region and their farmers and producers.” Phoebe learned a new skill: If you need any baby goat legs boning out, she’s your woman.

Staff briefing under the fruit trees. pic LL RAS

 The Sweat:

At the end of the evening, the chefs, bar keeps and volunteers had a turn in the spotlight, which was nice. Most importantly over $125,000 was raised and 200 ticket buying punters were fed and happy. Time to give up the illusion of the black swan gliding on the surface and get back to sweaty reality as the Bump Out began.


Lights for when that red sun set: pic LL RAS

Just as it went up, so it must go down. Lights were unstrung, power cables wound up, rubbish removed and every thing, down to salt cellars and ice buckets must be packed up and transported back to base.

Take Don Hancey’s famous split pans. I’ve worked with them often and If I had a buck for every bloke that pointed out “Those are heavy” I’d be fairly wealthy. Made of cast iron and weighing in at 70 kgs and they need to be cleaned, cooled and put away to bed at the end of the night. Fortunately for there was plenty of muscle around to do the job.

don's heavy pans

Dorper Lamb boys and one of Don’s 70kg pans: Pic Lina Lee, RAS

As the Urban Orchard was emptied and the giving continued as each chef station put out their surplus food for Julie Broad’s Food Rescue team to pack, take away and distribute to charities the next morning.

aaron and julie

Aaron and Julie discuss bump out logistics of left over food

Alex Maslen, Executive Officer, Gascoyne Food Council’s coordinated the marketing campaign for the event. Although she visited every on of the chef’s stalls, she was quite emotional, in a good way, and didn’t get much chance to eat. “The support for our growers is overwhelming. Now we have to decide how to put the funds to best use with contingency plans and also look to the future with medium and long term marketing strategies.”

“Our 194 growers are very resilient and will do their best to get their winter crops down to Perth as soon as possible. It certainly helps them to know that people in the city are aware of their struggle and care about helping the region recover. Keep an eye out for Carnarvon product in June!”



Farmer Jack’s donation to the Gascoyne Food Council

don lobster bisque

Don Hancey’s Gourmania Lobster Bisque with Limeburner’s Whiskey Liquer Cream. pic LL RAS


MC Verity James : pic Lina Lee, RAS

Crackling’s favourite dessert of the day, Sophie Budd’s Carnarvon Mess. pic LL RAS


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