THE region’s hospitality scene was praised and awarded for “what it did well” at last night’s Golden Plate Food Awards.
The best cafes, pubs and restaurants from Ballarat, Daylesford and the Pyrenees were named in 14 categories, with Mercato@Daylesford winning the overall Golden Plate Award for the evening.
Golden Plate president of judges Rita Erlich said the quality was very high in what had been a difficult year.
“In difficult economic times, restaurants, cafes and pubs have to be exceptional,” Ms Erlich said.
“The Mercato@Daylesford has done much better than last year – not only with the cooking, but also with the service. They have great attention to diner comfort.”
Mitchell Harris Wine Bar won the Innovation Award, and its barista Jesse Harwitch was named best barista.
Co-owner and co-manager Craig Mitchell said there had been great public support for the business since its March opening.
“Awards like this show that the region was ready for a place like Mitchell Harris,” he said.
“We’re rapt with how we’ve been able to be part of the culture that celebrates great food and wine.”
Jackson & Co won the People’s Choice Award, where more than 9000 votes were cast from around the region.
Mercato@Daylesford owner and head chef Richard Mee, also awarded for best contemporary dining, started the restaurant nine years ago.
“We’ve just been tweaking things here and there and taking on feedback,” he said.
“It’s good to be recognised for our hard work – this recognition makes all the long and hard hours worth it.
“We just hope to wow the judges next year... it’s only onwards and upwards.”
City of Ballarat deputy mayor Samantha McIntosh, introducing the evening, said the food industry had grown to a new level.
“Venues bounce off each other and learn the tricks to the trade to make for a landmark venue and a vibrant and enticing industry.”
Golden Plate Awards project manager Pamela Jewson said there were two rounds of judging that venues went through, with the first round beginning in March.
This is the 10th anniversary of the Golden Plate Awards and the third year the awards have been in the Ballarat region. Winners from different categories will go on to the state finals in Geelong on November 11.
The night was themed ‘Gatsby’ with many dressing up for the glamorous theme, to be greeted by dancers from the BCMA.
“We thought we’d do something different and add a bit of glitz and glamour to the evening,” Ms Jewson said
Almost 200 people from the industry attended the evening.
“This year we have a new category – the Innovation award, which recognises new concepts, ideas and different approaches businesses are taking,” Ms Jewson said.
“Ballarat’s hospitality industry is coming alive – it is stamping itself as its own region.”