Hospitality industry comes together in Melbourne

Last week the entire food and hospitality industry came together in Melbourne at the Foodservice Australia trade exhibition, with a record attendance showing how keen the industry is to regroup and be prepared for the future.

Event Director Tim Collett said “after a huge year of recovery the industry is now looking at how to meet the demands of consumers with increased costs and ongoing staff shortages. This show was a unique chance to share ideas and see all the new food, drink and equipment under one roof”.  

Foodservice Australia ran for three days at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre and had over 350 exhibitors and 10,000 trade visitors. It also hosted three major chef competitions, two industry conferences and a series of free workshops on the show floor.

At the heart of the show the Australian Professional Chef of the Year competition saw 32 of the best chefs from around Australia compete for the title and valuable prizes. They were given one hour and a black box of ingredients. The best dishes went through the Grand Final where Tom Hitchcock from The Spirit House in Yandina was crowned winner.

The judging team for Chef of the Year were chefs John McFadden, Scott Pickett, George Colombaris, Jenna Louise Cunningham, Mark Normoyle, Jerry Mai, Andrew Ballard and Telina Menzies and Gary Johnson from Brisbane. The sponsors were Anchor Food Professionals, Unox Australia, Bidfood, All Rosie Promotions, Bloom Providore, Leeuwin Coast, Oil2U and SAJ Fruit.

Also running at the show was the Australian selection series for the international Bocuse d’Or competition. This was won by Paul Golding who is Head Chef at Bunjil Place in Melbourne. Paul and his commis Chris Milligan from Maha will now head to Asia for the next round of the competition which culminates in Lyon in January 2025.

The third competition was the ACF Restaurant Challenge where 8 teams prepared a two-course menu for 40 guests in pop-up restaurants built on the show floor. The winning team was Moke Dining from Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula with chefs Michael Cole, Alex, Cole, Dylan Williams and Connough Turtle.

The National Restaurant Conference ran alongside the show and was a sell-out success. Speakers included Suresh Manickam from Restaurant & Catering Australia and renowned restaurateurs Scott Pickett, Shane Delia, Ian Curley, Stephen Nairn, Julian Hills, Laura Skvor, Ross Magnaye, Peter Gunn, and Merica Charungvat. They were joined by industry experts Fig Cakar, Adam Theobald, Tim Kummerfeld, Bianca Dawson, Eleisha Gray, Belinda Clarke, Ken Burgin, Glenn Flood and Dani Valent. It was sponsored by Cookers Bulk Oil systems and Bloom Providore.

The other major conference was the Aged Care Catering Summit which addressed this critical and evolving sector. Lifting taste and nutritional standards while improving efficiency were key themes. Speakers included Luke Mangan, Julie Dundon, Tawnya Bahr, Sally McCray, Karen Inge, John Casey , Cherie Hugo, Joshua Maldon and Dr Sandra Iuliano. It was sponsored by Dairy Australia, Evereo, SPC Care and All G Foods.

Two very popular destinations with visitors were the Café School and Sweet Spot Theatre which featured free business workshops throughout the day.  Lunch, food-to-go and embracing plant-based options were the focus at the Café School sponsored by Mission Foods, and Love Buds. Meanwhile pastry and chocolate skills were the focus at the Sweet Spot sponsored by Bulla Family Dairy, Apromo Trading and Queen Professional.

Exhibitors reported doing great business with new and existing customers. A number were concerned leading into the event given the large number of shows staged last year and the negative press around business. But organisers said visitor interest was always high and this translated into a record crowd.

Richard Simiane from Smize said “this is our first time exhibiting and it has been amazing. We have been able to launch the brand and generate hundreds of trade enquiries in just a few days. Getting our ice cream into people’s mouths has been key to the success”.    

Dayle Purcell from Three Bays said “Foodservice Melbourne was a great opportunity for the food & beverage industry to get together and show case some of the best products out there. As a producer, it is a great way to meet old customers and great new ones. Our product has a story and that’s what our customers love to hear in person from us.”

The next Foodservice Australia show will be held in Sydney from 17-19 May 2024. Bookings for stands are open now with many companies rebooking immediately. Visitor registration will open soon. For more information go to

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