96 hours straight sets new record for MCEC’s pastry team

MCEC Pastry chefs at work

MCEC’s pastry chefs baking 36,000 cookies

The month of August saw MCEC’s food and beverage team break all records, with revenues 23 per cent above the previous highest recorded revenue month in October 2012.

To deliver the record breaking month the pastry team worked non-stop for 96 hours over four days! During this time they made:

  • 36,000 cookies
  • 7,000 muffins
  • 4,000 danishes
  • 350 litres of ice cream
  • 400 kilograms of yoghurt
  •  200 kilograms muesli

On top of this they served around 4,000 of our signature Taste of Victoria entrée dishes and ground 1.1 tonne of coffee beans to caffeinate visitors.

The above items were served to a diverse range of events including:

  • 4 concerts
  • 9 gala dinners (largest for 1200 guests)
  • 14 conferences with exhibitions
  • 7 conferences
  • 13 exhibitions
  • 59 smaller seminars and meetings

We take our ‘chefs hats’ off to the hard-working food and beverage team involved in achieving these results. Amazing!

Croissants in the making

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Recipe: Chicken, ricotta and tarragon tortellini

Chicken and tarragon tortellini with green pea and fennel purée

Chicken, ricotta and tarragon tortellini with green pea and fennel purée

We’re  in the process of  updating our menu planning guide and couldn’t help but share this delicious chicken pasta recipe with you (before it has even hit the MCEC menu).  The perfect entrée for a dinner party, it’s not too complicated for the amateur home chef and is guaranteed to impress your guests!

Ingredients – serves 6

We are passionate about supporting local Victorian suppliers and encourage you to source recipe ingredients locally, wherever possible.


  • 500 grams chicken thigh fillets
  • 1 packet fresh pasta sheets (if you’re feeling adventurous you can make them from scratch)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 250 grams ricotta
  • 10 grams tarragon

Fennel jam (to garnish)

  • 2 x fennel
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 400ml riesling (white wine)

Fennel purée

  • 3 x fennel
  • 1 x tablespoon butter
  • Olive oil and salt to taste

Green pea purée

  • 500 grams green peas
  • 100 grams chicken stock
  • 100 grams crème fraiche
  • 10 x mint leaves

*Kalamata olives and dehydrated fennel to garnish.

Cooking process


  • Dice up chicken and cook in pan using extra virgin olive oil.
  • Blend cooked chicken pieces, lemon zest, ricotta and tarragon in food processor until mixed together.
  • Cut fresh pasta sheets into squares (approx. 10cm x 10cm)
  • Place teaspoon of blended chicken mixture into centre of pasta square, folder over into a triangle and press down on sides to join together.
  • Next fold bottom triangle points together and join by pressing together.
  • Repeat this process until you have created all your tortellini. Sprinkle very lightly with plain flour and set aside.

Fennel jam

  • Dice fennel into 1cm squares, then add to pot with a little olive oil and cook down on a gentle heat.
  • When fennel is soft add the sugar and riesling (white wine).
  • Continue to cook down until it has caramelised and becomes a nice jam-like consistency. Set aside until ready to serve.

Fennel purée

  • Cut fennel into wedges, toss in extra virgin olive oil and salt, place in tray and cover with foil.
  • Cook in oven at 110 degrees for 70 minutes or until soft enough to purée.
  • Purée in food processor with a little butter, season to taste and pass through a fine strainer.

Green pea purée

  • Blanch peas for 1 minute in hot water, then drain and refresh.
  • Place peas in a food processor and purée with mint leaves and a little chicken stock until smooth.
  • Add some crème fraiche, mix and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To plate:

  • Bring pot of water to the boil, add fresh chicken tortellini and cook until pasta floats to the top (approx. 5-7 minutes). Drain thoroughly – * Note: do not overcook pasta.
  • Smear fennel and green pea purée across bottom of plate, then place cooked pasta on top.
  • Add a tablespoon of fennel jam to either side of the dish with extra crème fraiche if needed.
  • Top with diced kalamata olives, dehydrated fennel and green garnish.
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Meet the chefs challenging traditional venue catering

(L-R) Garry, Alessandro, Michael, Tony and Joseph

(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 working in the kitchen

MCEC chefs at work in the kitchen

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