It’s that time of year again, when Australia’s hospitality experts wait with baited breath to see if they’ve made the grade. Like the proverbial Oscars of the culinary world, the Australian Good Food Guide Chef Hats Awards are the definitive measure by which an Australian restaurant can secure its place as a ‘must do’ dining destination. But if you’re wondering what it takes to earn one, two or even three of those illusive hats next to your restaurant’s name, then allow us to shed a heat lamp on the process with our guide to the six steps you need to consider to guarantee success.
It might seem like a no-brainer, however in order to capture the judges attention your first step in the right direction whether you’re basic ingredients are fresh, well thought out and inventive. No, this doesn’t mean you should start bulk buying truffles, in fact it’s frequently the most simple and inexpensive ingredients combined with expert skill that will score you brownie points.
The overall flavour of your dish is absolutely essential to success, however it’s important not to get carried away. While molecular gastronomy will always bring the ‘wow’ factor to your meal, overly fussy or pretentious meals may not be the right way to woo the judges. A chef who has shown careful consideration with a balanced menu that offers the right amount of intrigue over shock value is more likely to impress.
In this age of social media dominance, it should come as no surprise that diners eat with their eyes first. Which is why food presentation will always be tantamount to success. Whether it’s through a delicate balance of colour and garnish, a thoughtful and interactive experience or an artistic display worthy of the louvre (Vue de monde, we’re looking at you), presentation is the one thing that will take your dish from very good to viral internet sensation.
While creativity and inventiveness is at the heart of elevating your menu, it can be easy to fall into the trap of over-compensating. Bringing imagination to your menu creation is vital to getting recognised for a AGFG Chef Hat, but ensure that you’re not sacrificing the dish for the sake of notoriety. If it sounds creative, looks fantastic but ultimately tastes like a boot you’re probably doing it wrong.
A relaxed home style eatery with the same results as a fine French dining institution? It can happen! The important thing to remember for AGFG inspectors is to independently assess the value and style of every venue before awarding their marks. Whether or not that venue meets the projected standards of their genre and how well the overall experience plays out.
Now that you have the individual ingredients to secure success, the most important thing is consistency. While you may satisfy one or two categorical elements to a high standard without a consistent approach across all, you may find securing your own AGFG Chef Hat an impossible climb.