This is sponsored content by Tennis Australia.
Fans flocking to see the world's tennis champions at Australian Open 2020 this January can also look forward to close encounters of a culinary kind — with the stars of Australia's cooking scene.
And while female world number one Ash Barty thrills crowds on court, another female icon will be headlining the tournament's foodie spectacular.
Culinary hero Donna Hay leads an all-female line-up of celebrity chefs who will host degustation dinners they've created especially for the tournament, in the Australian Open 2020 Chef Series.
They'll present their menus in personalised pop-up restaurants at The Glasshouse, during the two-week Melbourne tennis-fest.
Hay's dinner, served on two nights only, presents a rare opportunity to enjoy a meal prepared in person by the bestselling cookbook author.
"I don't have my own restaurant," she says, "so when I cook and entertain, it's for friends coming to my home. I've approached this menu in the same way."
Hay's five-course degustation menu is deeply personal and nostalgic, with influences from her childhood and early career. And as you'd expect from such a renowned champion of Australian produce, it's a showcase of fresh, delicious local bounty.
To start, Hay will serve up two stunning seafood dishes.
"One thing that makes Australia great is our beautiful clean, fresh seafood," she says. "So I've got a really light cured kingfish with a crisp salad and then a lovely ginger, lemongrass and chilli cured ocean trout with a green papaya salad."
"It's beautifully fresh and showcases how amazing our seafood is," she adds. "I also wanted something to reflect the Melbourne weather in late January — vibrant summery flavours and dishes that weren't too heavy."
Next comes a dish that Hay regards as an old friend: chilli, rocket and lemon linguine. For special occasion wow-factor, she's added seared bug tails.
"This is a recipe that's been dotted through my life for so many years," says Hay. "I made this chilli, rocket and lemon linguine really early in my career and then it just morphed into so many different things; from pasta that I used to eat for lunch in the studio to a version with raw tuna through it, then with salmon. And [the addition of] bug tails is a treat I enjoy with friends when we're having a celebration, so I put the two together."
For the main, Hay settled on a chicken and heirloom tomato tart featuring vegies from NSW producer Coopers Shoot.
"It'll be a lovely flaky tart, naturally sweetened by the beautiful tomatoes," she says.
Next up, Hay will be serving an Australian ace: Pavlova. "It really would be rude not to," she says of the beloved classic. Hay's take on the dessert is a nuanced layering of flavours and texture; sweet and tart, crunchy and gooey. "I wanted to dial it up so I've taken individual Pavlovas and spiked them with raspberries to offset the sweetness of the meringue. You swirl them in before you bake it, for that tart, jammy flavour," she says.
True to Australian tradition, Hay dials up the menu with a Pavlova. Photo: Getty
Passionfruit through the cream on top provides another fresh, zingy counterpoint to the sweetness.
That Pav's a hard act to follow, but Hay's final course is irresistible, and recalls her sunny childhood summers.
"I thought it would be nice to send people off to enjoy the tennis with a cooling treat; a little coconut chocolate lamington ice cream bar, and a little pine-lime granita that reminds me of my childhood and being on the beach in summer," she says.
Hay will be joined in the Australian Open Chef Series 2020 by fellow celebrity chefs Analiese Gregory from Hobart's acclaimed Franklin, Masterchef graduate and restaurateur Sarah Todd, and one of Thailand's top Michelin Star chefs Duangporn 'Bo' Songvisva.
Together, these formidable females will ensure the foodie action is every bit as thrilling as the Grand Slam spectacle on court.
To learn more and purchase tickets to the Australian Open Chef Series 2020, visit https://ausopen.com/hospitality/packages/chef-series.