The West

Gearing up for the Great Escape
Gearing up for the Great Escape

After almost a year in the planning, the Margaret River Gourmet Escape staff won’t simply be packing up after the November event concludes at the end of the fortnight.

Brand Events’ Australasia managing director Michael Hodgson revealed this week there were another two significant food and wine-related events in the planning for Margaret River in the coming year, after which the Sydney-based global events company would return for the second year out of the five planned for its Gourmet Escape.

The warm local reception to the event, the “laidback sophistication” of Margaret River and the undeniable pull of the region internationally led the company to conclude there was more they could do in the region.

Details were yet to be confirmed, but the new events would feed into the company’s ongoing relationship with Margaret River.

It would also capitalise on the media exposure and increased word-of-mouth among the festival’s bigname visitors.

The on-site kitchens, stages and booths featuring in events across the region in a week’s time will be mothballed after they were built by an army of local contractors.

It was more feasible to build fresh infrastructure than ship it from Perth, Mr Hodgson and event director Naomi Wilson told the Times this week, but the region’s remoteness was part of the appeal in setting the culinary event in Margaret River.

“It’s clearly going to be more expensive to hold an event here three-and-a-half hours from a major city, but on the flip side you get a great engagement from the local community,” Mr Hodgson said.

The response from those international chefs was that many had always wanted to visit Margaret River, but never had the time or impetus.

Career chefs could make a living touring weekend food festivals across the northern hemisphere, so it wasn’t just remuneration that led to such an enthusiastic response from chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and others.

“The one thing I want is to reflect the region back to them,” Mr Hodgson said.

“It’s a mixture of discovering a region and having a holiday for them … Hopefully they will go back into their chef communities and say ‘You’ve got to go here’.”

Ms Wilson said many of the luminaries preparing to touch down in Margaret River had already made inquiries about surfing and whale watching.

She believed – just as had been the case for her – the stars of the Gourmet Escape would enjoy their time in Margaret River for its mix of laid back charm and world-class cuisine.

Things had been hectic in the past few weeks, but the growing crew of Brand Events staff were confident they would pull off a successful event which drew on a mix of tried-and-true formula with some special innovations for the region.

Mr Hodgson hoped residents would give the family day on Sunday at Leeuwin Estate a try because the organisers wanted to engage with locals in putting Margaret River on the world stage

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