(L-R) Garry, Alessandro, Mike, Tony and Joe
Our 97 metre long kitchen, the largest in the southern hemisphere, is full of many faces and together we all have the same goal – to break the mould and challenge the perceptions that surround event and conference food.
For our team, it’s all about applying the small thinking to the large number game and adding that personalised touch to each dish. The biggest reward for our chefs is seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they dine at MCEC and the fact our visitors are often pleasantly surprised and impressed by what the kitchen team deliver.
Delivering creative and high-quality dishes on a mass scale everyday could not be done without the leadership of some very talented chefs. So we thought we would take the time to introduce you to a few of the faces responsible for serving more than 700,000 MCEC visitors each year!
Tony Panetta – Executive Chef
Tony heads up 15 chefs and more than 70 kitchen assistants. He is passionate about local Victorian produce, which stems back to his childhood growing up in Heathcote surrounded by good food and planting fruit and olive trees on his family’s farm in Bendigo. He was eight-years-old when he started cooking, helping out in his parent’s Italian café and cooking dishes with his mum inspired by their Calabrese heritage. Prior to his role at MCEC, Tony was head chef for a boutique conference centre, Aitken Hill, an experience which has allowed him to bring that smaller mentality thinking to the larger MCEC game. Creating in-house dishes using the best seasonal and local ingredients is something Tony and the team pride themselves on, and has been instilled into the heart of MCEC’s food philosophy.
Garry Goodman – Executive Sous Chef
Garry has always been passionate about cooking, growing up in a family full of chefs. Before MCEC he was based in the Yarra Valley, so he is no stranger to some of Victoria’s best local produce. As Executive Sous Chef, Garry oversees the day to day operations of the whole kitchen and is always on the lookout for ways to improve what the team deliver. This includes creating and trialling innovative new menu items and food concepts with the kitchen team, using their ‘big kitchen toys’ (eg. large industrial cooking equipment) as they call it. Garry is also known for his brewing skills, hand-crafting delicious beer that rivals some of the best!
Michael Belcher – Executive Sous Chef
For the last 23 years Mike has worked predominately in pastry, previously holding the Executive Pastry Chef role in the MCEC kitchen. His creativity has helped him excel in our kitchen, recently taking on an Executive Sous Chef position, with his efforts now focussed on the retail catering side of the business. He is responsible for devising ways to update, streamline and improve our retail offering in our two on-site cafes and kiosks. Prior to MCEC Mike worked in a number of other iconic Australian venues, including the Sydney Opera House.
Joseph Goodman – Senior Sous Chef
Originating from the other side of the Bass Strait in Tasmania, Joe began his career in the kitchen at a local pub. From there his experience spans many popular fine dining restaurants in Melbourne, before he joined MCEC in 2008. Joe also plays a significant role in MCEC’s menu development, as well as providing guidance to all section chefs, helping them to develop their skills. You will often find Joe on the ‘front line’ during an event, managing the plating up and delivery of dishes; and importantly, adding that final touch before it’s served. Due to the nature of our industry we often have some ‘big names’ and celebrities visit the MCEC kitchen – Joe in particular is known for becoming a little star-struck on the odd occasion!
Alessandro Bartesaghi – Executive Pastry Chef
You could say Alessandro has the sweetest job in the kitchen, heading up MCEC’s pastry section where he aims to drive creativity and innovation. His past experience is a complicated fusion of Italian and French cooking; working in Milan in a French inspired patisserie and then in Paris in an Italian restaurant. Back in Milan Alessandro also worked at Peck, internationally renowned for their gastronomical delights! His passion for patisserie and desserts stems back to his childhood as a 10 year old boy, waking up early on a Sunday morning to make a dessert for lunch with his mum, who is still to this day one of his greatest influencers.
MCEC chefs at work in the kitchen