Event comes up trumps

Sophie ElliottAugusta Margaret River Times
Pierre Koffman and Marco Pierre White reunited for a presentation at the Chef’s Amphitheatre. Picture Travis Hayto.
Camera IconPierre Koffman and Marco Pierre White reunited for a presentation at the Chef’s Amphitheatre. Picture Travis Hayto. Credit: Picture Travis Hayto

The first expanded WA Gourmet Escape has been declared a success by festival organisers, top chefs and the region’s peak tourism body.

The festival was held across 10 days in the Swan Valley and Perth this year as well as its “spiritual home” in the Margaret River region.

Final figures were this week still being tallied, but it was estimated 23,000 people attended Gourmet Escape — 15,000 of those heading south.

Besides food-lovers making the trip south, the region will be put further on the map by more than 50 media representatives visiting from the US, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, the UK and interstate.

Star chef Marco Pierre White described the event as “the greatest show on Earth”.

“My mind is blown. There is beauty literally everywhere you look in WA. The produce, the people, the place — it’s like nowhere else on Earth,” he said.

Dunsborough’s Yarri Restaurant head chef Aaron Carr said the event opened doors for local producers.

“This is the best food event in the country, without question,” he said.

“People need to continue to get on-board. We don’t want to lose it. Gourmet Escape promotes the region so well. The whole flow-on effect for what it does for our towns, our accommodation providers, our shops, cannot be discounted.”

Event organiser IMG Culinary managing director Hannah Pike said the newly expanded format was well received.

“Throughout the 10 days, the hero was really WA’s incredible produce, with visiting chefs all taking home a new appreciation of the quality meats, seafood, vegetables, wines and more, delivered with the ‘can-do’ attitude WA is known for,” Ms Pike said.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said the festival showcased WA as one of the world’s greatest culinary spots.

“From the rustic charm of the Swan Valley, to the vibrant Perth restaurant scene, and, of course, the world-renowned South West region, the 10-day event highlighted some of the best food and wine experiences the State has on offer,” he said.

“We are already looking forward to next year’s event building on its achievements and celebrating even more of WA’s world-best food and beverage.”

Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association joint chief executive Steve Harrison said the tourism group’s reservations team fielded an increased level of inquiries in the lead-up to the Gourmet Escape and reported that accommodation and transport were almost at capacity at the weekend.

Mr Harrison noted the festival coincided with Leavers and the beginning of wedding season.

Your Margaret River Region’s digital channels received a big increase in traffic — including an 87 per cent increase in visits to the GE event page on margaretriver. com compared to 2018.

“Events such as the Gourmet Escape provide a compelling reason to visit the region throughout the year and attract high-value travellers,” he said.

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