A parliament of hungry minds assembled recently at the offices of AHA NSW to hear expert insights into the ‘Future of Food’ in pubs.
An esteemed panel of chefs and industry cornerstones headlined the event for St.George’s Business Banking division, addressing hoteliers and guests over three courses and a range of topics.
St.George’s charismatic Sidney Lin steered the evening, putting a series of pre-prepared – and one curly – questions to the five high-profile guest identities, coaxing intriguing insights into their successes in foodservice.
First under the spotlight were executive chefs Chris Hogarth, of Merivale’s Papi Chulo and El Loco, and Zac Sykes, of Solotel’s North Bondi Fish, discussing ‘trends and produce’.
“America has been a real source of inspiration – from the cuisine to the cooking,” proclaimed Hogarth.
“I love to BBQ and grill foods; it’s fun and casual, and reflects Australian’s relationship with dining out.”
Merivale recently re-opened its overhauled The Newport, boasting the kind of “fun food” to which Hogarth referred, such as rotisserie and smoked meats, juicy burgers and fried chicken, as well as uber-fresh seafood.
Sykes went on to speak of the world-leading aquaculture from Australia and New Zealand, which he seeks to present and hopes will continue to grow on Australian menus.
“It is held in very high regard throughout the world,” Sykes qualified. “The farmed product is a lot more sustainable, and the quality is very consistent as is the availability.”
The highlight of the night was arguably an insightful discussion on the raw numbers of food by one of the best behind-the-scenes professionals in pubs, Merivale food & beverage director, Frank Roberts.
“At Merivale we look at all facets of the business and the profitability and we are not afraid to make changes where it’s necessary,” Roberts told the enraptured crowd. “Launching a venue is so exciting and you get a really good honeymoon period for the first six weeks, but then you have to make the venue work as a business and I urge all pub owners to look into the future and position their businesses for the day-in day-out trade.”
Roberts’ address made special mention of the importance of ‘talent management’ and off the stage he elaborated to PubTIC that the veritable army of exceptional employees found at any given time at any given Merivale venue is the result of an ongoing strategy to empower suitable people.
“Rather than merely train employees, who may then seek to move on anyway, we try to identify good candidates for promotion and actively give these individuals responsibility and encourage them to take ownership of outcomes.”
The third act saw celebrity chef Danny Russo (Russolini) join Kim Barnard from The Urban List to talk ‘technology in the kitchen’, which included both advancements in equipment and the value of marketing and social media.
The educational insights provided by the night were perhaps only surpassed by the delectable and on-trend dining courses, cooked and served up by award-winning chef Greg Bookallil and his team from the Longueville and Bayview Hotels.
“We are amazed by the revolution that has been brought to pubs in regards to food,” summarised Paul Hilder, head of the St.George hospitality team.
“We love pubs, and we love how they have engaged with their communities and brought a global food perspective onto plates.”
St.George has made a strong commitment to its industry insight events, with Future of Food returning this year, and the 3rd annual Pub Design Tour set to cart bus-loads of hoteliers around spunky Sydney pub renovations again later in 2016.