Top Melbourne chefs are about to pop up in the spiritual home of the Dagwood dog.
For those able to resist the lure of the battered and deep fried hot dog, a series of pop-up restaurants will put the likes of veal and pork polpetti and braised pork tacos on the Melbourne Show menu next month.
Union Dining's Nicky Reimer (who admits to a secret liking of Dagwood dogs) will channel an Italian picnic for her pop-up restaurant. As well as the polpetti, she'll dish up her addictive porcetta tonnato on a roll, essentially cold shaved pork with tuna mayonnaise.
Fonda Mexican will bring the fun back into fast food with tacos, quesadillas and a drink concocted especially for the show. Sweet-fanged showgoers should bypass the fairy floss. Darren Purchese will bat up his "explosive" raspberry and milk chocolate dessert with his infamous exploding choc chip cookie crumb and raspberry cream.
In another coup for the show, Cumulus Inc's Andrew McConnell will head an impressive line-up of chefs hitting the cooking demonstrations stage. Big names firing up the burners include Philippa Sibley, Matt Wilkinson, Ian Curley, Matt Dempsey, Nick Anthony, Mike Patrick and Chris Badenoch, as well as the pop-up chefs, Riemer, Darren Purchese and Fonda Mexican's Ravi Presser.
The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria's show organisers had no trouble talking local chefs into supporting the event. Most of them are more than a little nostalgic about their own show experiences.
For McConnell, childhood memories of the show are even sweeter after returning to the show last year with his three children (aged 7, 9 and 11).
“I took the kids to the show for the first time and they loved it,” McConnell says. “It was the first time I'd been since I was a kid and nearly everything was just the same as I remember it.
“The wood chopping, the stunt cars, the animals… it was very cool back than and it still is today. We even saw the jetpack guy. So when I told the kids I'd been asked to cook at the show, they were pretty excited.”
For San Telmo's Mike Patrick, cooking at the show is particularly sweet.
“My mum (Sandra) used to bake sponges for the baking competitions at the show and she won blue ribbons three years running,” Patrick says. “Mum's the reason I'm a chef. We did a lot of baking together, using all those Women's Weekly cookbooks from the '70s and '80s.”
For Townsville-born-and-bred chef Nicky Riemer, the arrival of the annual show was the highlight of her year when she was a kid.
"I have such fond memories of the wood chopping," she says. "My grandfather was a champion at it in Queensland. I was very young but remember wood chips flying everywhere at the Cairns show.
"I always loved the cakes cooked by the CWA champions, and still secretly dream of being asked to judge the lamington bake at any show."
Riemer hopes the pop-up restaurant concept will grow at the Melbourne Show in years to come. She also hopes to see more home-baked food sold by the CWA.
English import Ian Curley might have missed out on childhood show experiences, but has become a big fan of the event since starting a family in Melbourne.
Curley reckons the show's strongest asset is the way the country comes to the city, giving him the chance to show his children the importance of farmers.
“If it were up to me, I would make the whole show Victorian only,” Curley says. “From wine all the way down to the little seeds you plant for herbs… it should be entirely Victorian.
“Let's get parochial and be proud of it.”
- The Melbourne Show runs from September 21 to October 2
- Pop-up restaurants will run in the Tastes of Victoria Pavilion:
Albert St Food & Wine – September 21-23
Fonda Mexican – September 24-26
Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio – September 27-29
Union Dining – September 30 to October 2
- Cooking demonstrations will be held every half hour on the Tastes of Victoria stage.