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Marriott Chefs Hit High Notes with Producers at Yarra Valley Event

Local producers working with top Marriott chefs and influencers was a match made in heaven, for a unique event in the Yarra Valley. The World Loves Melbourne was invited to a fabulous dinner and night at The Westin Melbourne, then on to the Marriott Hotels Culinary & Beverage Workshop at De Bortoli Winery in the Yarra Valley  - where we met Marriott chefs from around Australia, as well as some from overseas, and were able to see our childhood nostalgic dishes recreated!

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We began our extraordinary journey with a night at fabulous The Westin Melbourne. Here we got to experience the amazing food of the Executive Chef of The Westin Melbourne (part of Marriott Hotels) Michael Greenlaw. This is an iconic hotel in Melbourne and the service and rooms (with stunning views) were top notch.

Oysters natural, green apple & cider vinegar granita (above) was refreshing and perfect with Moet champagne.

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Michael Greenlaw is an acclaimed chef with extensive experience in 5 star hotels, Michelin and standalone restaurants - and his Marriott Culinary Dinner for media at Allegro Restaurant was imaginative and stunning.

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Table setting was also stunning with Spring flower arrangements. With a Moet or two enjoyed by the media dining party, it was time for some local wines.

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Kingfish, yarrow leaves, woodland sorrel, rocket flowers, preserved orange & shiro dressing.

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Finesse also shown in the Scallops, celeraic, pickled moon drop grapes, samphire, parsley puree & verjuice. I was also taken by the 2015 Hickinbotham Chardonnay, Mornington Peninsula Vic.

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A highlight was Lamb backstrap, nastutium leaves & flowers, lamb tongue, burnt onion & honey was paired with 2014 Scotchmans Hill Pinot Noir, Bellarine Peninsula, Vic.

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Cape Grim Scotch fillet, smoked shallot, bone marrow croquette was perfect with 2014 Mount Langi Cliff Edge Shiraz, Grampians Vic.

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Chocolate cherry ganache, crisp black olives, candied beetroot & chocolate sable was a visually spectacular and flavoursome dish paired with Campbell's Muscat NV, Rutherglen Vic.

Of course we also experienced the fabulous breakfast buffet at Allegro Restaurant in the morning.

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We then travelled by bus to fabulous De Bortoli Winery in the Yarra Valley for the Marriott Culinary and Beverage Workshop.

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Upon arrival at De Bortoli we were introduced to some of the Marriott senior management including the charming Florencia Aimo, Area Director of Marketing for the Pacific region (left), and Toine Hoeksel Culinary Director Asia-Pacific, who has an Executive Chef background himself.

We were then paired with chefs to create a nostalgic dish from our childhood. I nominated Carpetbag steak, an iconic dish of my childhood, which consisted of premium steak cooked with a pocket of oysters inside. Please see a separate article on my website of the Carpetbag steak (to be published 11/10). The chef I was paired with was Andrew Fraser (below), an experienced and affable Executive Chef from Surfers Paradise Marriott.

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Andrew Fraser's people skills are peerless and he greets each staff member when they start their shifts - with 107 staff under his leadership! Spending time in the kitchen with Andrew and other Marriott chefs we got to see their innovation, professionalism and dedication to their craft. Not only that but there was a feeling of family at this event and the chefs were relaxed, approachable and friendly. Andrew said that these days the Marriott chefs are spending more time on the floor with customers, not just in the kitchen.

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Prepping in the De Bortoli kitchen before the cook off!

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A pop-up Farmers Market was also extraordinary. Marriott Hotels work closely with producers including local producers. Many of the relationships with producers have been long term and it was great to see these producers being featured at a Farmer's Market. Producers included Tassal Tasmanian Salmon, Renaissance Herbs, De Bortoli Wines, Gippsland producers, Crumbs, Cherryhill Orchards, Hargreaves Hill, Hardings, Feel Good, Kookaberry Strawberry Farm, Cunliffe, Yarra Valley Chocolate Co. and Top Cut Foods.

The Marriott chefs were at De Bortoli for a three day workshop honing their skills, forging relationships and camaraderie and bringing alignment (following the significant merger between Marriott and Starwood Hotels).

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We visited each producer's pop up stall for a chat and a tasting!

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De Bortoli brought a large range of it's fabulous wines to the event.

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Most of the producers present were the owners of the business and it was a thrill to be served a Hargreaves Hill Pale Ale from Simon Walkenhorst (who also told me he is a classical pianist!).

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Tassal fresh seafood was a highlight!

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Eying off the Lobster!

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I was taken by the quality of the non alcoholic Cherry Spritzer of Cherryhill Orchards! And the subtly sour cherry beer!

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Farm eggs!

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Get your single origin chocolate on!

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Condiment heaven!

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The backdrop of vineyards and hills at De Bortoli was breathtaking. Not to mention a fine Spring day of sunshine!

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Fresh high quality produce!

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To cook up lunch for guests there were a series of BBQ stations, where teams of chefs (3 per station) were assigned a series of ingredients from the Farmer's Market to create dishes. I was assigned to a station with Andrew Fraser and other Marriott chefs and the team was given scallops, salmon and oysters to work with. Guests were taken by bus to De Bortoli where they were given a series of dishes by Marriott chefs and asked to vote on the best dishes/chefs of the day!

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Then it was on to cooking up the nostalgic dishes for Influencers as recreated by Marriott Chefs. This meant the chefs were under pressure to perform several tasks at once - catering for a number of foodie guests as well as creating nostalgic dishes with Influencers. Not that Marriott chefs are strangers to pressure with a huge number of dishes served each day in Marriott Hotels from restaurants to room service to poolside! 

Apart from cooking up my nostalgic childhood dish of Carpetbag steak, Marriott chefs also recreated other nostalgic dishes of Influencers including Classic Roast Pork, modernising it as Chimichurri Pork Cutlets with Spring Vegetables.

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Morning Sunrise Cocktail with Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin, De Bortoli Shiraz Grenache, Fever Tree Tonic, Marmalade Jam and Raspberry Balsamic. One of the best cocktails I've had in a long time.

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 So much delicious food!

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Get your BBQ on! Images above: Melbourne Marriott Facebook.

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Finger limes and salsa added to Coffin bay Oysters.

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Fresh scallops on the BBQ.

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One thing I discovered is that Marriott chefs are high achievers, thrive under pressure, have a sense of adventure and fun and are affable and innovative. Several chefs were interviewed at the event and we agree they should be celebrated.

Thanks to the PR team and team from Marriott Hotels for such a great event and to De Bortoli for the stunning location. #sp