What’s new on the menu at MCEC?

We’re excited to announce we recently launched our new menu planning guide, with more than 20 per cent of our menu items newly added or updated. These items include a mouth-watering High Tea by our talents in-house pastry chefs and new live cooking station menus.

In response to conference trends, greater event diversity and an increased need for retail offerings we have also developed a retail catering guide, which explains our on-site cafés, fixed kiosks and 10 pop-up outlets.

Our Food and Beverage team are extremely passionate about making sure our offering reflects Melbourne’s reputation as one of the greatest culinary cities in the world. Both these guides continue to tell our story of sourcing fresh, seasonal produce locally and creating food in-house, thanks to our skilled team of chefs. They also ensure our food brand Made represents our entire food offering across both catering and retail.

Watch this space for more exciting announcements soon!

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A micro dairy supplying a macro venue

Guest post by Sarah Robins – ‘Girl Has Appetite’. Sarah is a passionate advocate for local food producers and sustainable food systems.

Photo credit: Peter Tarasiuk from Broadsheet Melbourne

Photo credit: Peter Tarasiuk via Broadsheet Melbourne

Did you partake in one of the 16.3 million coffees consumed in Australia today? Possibly more than one? If not coffee, perhaps chai or hot chocolate is more your cup of tea? Bean origin, cacao sustainability, powder or syrup, made from leaves or a bag; these are now all decisive factors at our favourite cafes.

Recently the all-important bottle of milk has also come into focus, both for the low ticket price of mainstream brands in the supermarket and resulting impact on local dairy farmers, as well as flavour and quality. Boutique milk producers are rising to the challenge of shortening food chains and our preference for locally sourced products, with several local dairies debuting in recent years.

Saint David Dairy is one such producer, a micro dairy tucked away in the side streets of Fitzroy in an area which once boasted more than 25 dairy producers. Milk for coffee is where the business started, initially supplying only baristas. “I believe in doing one thing well before moving on,” says founder Ben Evans. While most milk looks pretty similar to the average person, its composition, fat content and body become evident when making coffee. “We do a ‘froth’ test, as well as a taste test every day to make sure the milk is how it should be. It’s performance-based,” he adds.

Photo credit: Peter Tarasiuk for Broadsheet Melbourne

Photo credit: Peter Tarasiuk via Broadsheet Melbourne

Freshness is everything in the dairy world. Ben’s team collect milk at 3.30am; it’s processed and hand-bottled by midday. With deliveries six days a week it can be just 6 hours from cow to coffee cup. Saint David Dairy’s full fat pasteurised milk is available homogenised or with the layer of cream on the top that was once commonplace. Reduced fat milk, cream and double cream – the latter with no thickeners or additive – are also in their product range.

The business is the culmination of a plan Ben hatched more than ten years ago. Dairy farming is in the genes, thanks to his mother’s side of the family. His career started with a dairy cadetship at Murray Goulburn and went on to encompass cheese making and butter production around Australia and overseas.

The rise of the microbrewery and support for local produce was the inspiration for a small scale business with a strong product offering, while Fitzroy has a special place in his heart as the location where he met his wife. There’s also the proximity to customers (ie low food miles) and potential for retail – which recently commenced with milk sales via a window hatch on St David Street, just near the corner of Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.

Working in a small space has presented both opportunities and challenges with space maximisation, customisation of machinery and a smart production line essential to success. Ben’s keen to consider expanding into fresh cheeses like ricotta and perhaps sourcing his milk from a single farm in the future.

Since becoming a supplier in late 2014, MCEC have used 1950 litres of full cream milk and 142 litres of cream from Saint David Dairy to produce their award-winning ice cream, Labna and yoghurt.

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MCEC’s executive chef judges MasterChef cook-off

(L-R) MCEC Executive Chef Tony Panetta, 2013 MasterChef winner Emma Dean and 2014 MasterChef contestant Sam Grant.

(L-R) MCEC Executive Chef Tony Panetta, 2013 MasterChef winner Emma Dean and 2014 MasterChef contestant Sam Grant.

The latest edition to the Melbourne Farmers’ Market portfolio has taken up residence just down the road from Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, much to the delight of our executive chef Tony Panetta.

Southbank Farmers’ Market at the Boyd Community Hub is the first VFMA accredited farmers’ market located within the City of Melbourne, providing more than 15,000 residents in the area with access to fresh Victorian produce, direct from local producers.

In the lead up to Christmas, Southbank Farmers’ Market held a MasterChef cook-off between two former contestants, with Tony popping down to help host and judge the dishes.

The 2013 MasterChef winner Emma Dean and 2014 participant Sam Gant were given $50 and 30 minutes to shop the market and a further 30 minutes to create a dish with  the seasonal produce they’d purchased.

Emma whipped up a delicious chocolate, avocado and berry mousse while Sam created a dish with smoked Portarlington mussels.

Market-goers were given the opportunity to taste and judge the dishes for themselves, with Tony concluding it a dead heat and announcing “Victorian produce the winner.”

Southbank Farmers Market is held the first Saturday of each month. 

Southbank Farmers Market MasterChef cook-off in action.

Southbank Farmers’ Market MasterChef cook-off in action.

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