Attica's Ben Shewry lures top chefs to Melbourne for his WAW food festival

Jane Holroyd
Pulling power: Attica chef Ben Shewry.
Pulling power: Attica chef Ben Shewry. Photo: Simon Schluter

Well if there was any doubt before about Ben Shewry's pulling power, it can surely be put to rest now.

The New Zealand-born chef and the face of Australia's best restaurant Attica (according to The World's 50 Best Restaurants list) has managed to lure some of the world's highest profile on-trend chefs to our shores for a foodie love-in, including a $500 per head Sunday charity lunch, to be held in Melbourne in October.

Food truck pioneer Roy Choi will attend WAW.
Food truck pioneer Roy Choi will attend WAW. Photo: Axel Koester/New York Times

Shewry and the Attica team have christened the gathering WAW - pronounced "war" - but never fear, visiting chefs including Los Angeles food truck pioneer Roy Choi, Paris 'bistronomy' pioneer Inaki Aizpitarte, Bo Songvisava from Bangkok's Bo.lan, Daniel Patterson from San Francisco's Coi and Margot Henderson from London's Rochelle Canteen, won't have violence on their minds.

Shewry, a regular attendee at international food symposiums - think Noma chef Rene Redzepi's annual MAD food camp event in Denmark - says the aim of the two-day WAW gathering is actually, and simply, to spread some love.

Day one of the gathering - Saturday, October 4 - will see 20 guests speaking for 10 minutes each at a free public forum at a warehouse in Brighton. Speakers will address the broad themes of food and kindness. Along with international chefs, Sydney's Peter Gilmore (Quay) and Ben Greeno (Momofuku Seiobo), comedian Tom Gleeson and eco-foodie warrior Joost Bakker will share their wisdom.

Noma chef and MAD founder Rene Redzepi inspired Shewry.
Noma chef and MAD founder Rene Redzepi inspired Shewry. Photo: Erik Refner

Day two will see the guests getting down and dirty in the kitchen at Rippon Lea Estate to put on a Sunday feast to raise money for Shewry's favourite charity, Helping Hoops, which runs free basketball lessons for disadvantaged young people. Chefs including Isaac McHale of London's Clove Club and Thai food guru David Thompson will help prepare a $500 per head lunch.

Shewry said he began pulling strings to get WAW up-and-running about four months ago, and says he was inspired by his first trip to MAD four years ago, which came at a time when he says he was feeling "rudderless" in life and in his career.

"It helped me realise I wasn't alone in my work... [I had been feeling] unsure of myself and not doing the best I had with the time I had and making too many excuses about why I couldn't change things in my life or at [Attica] restaurant.


"When I came back [from MAD] there was no more excuses."

Shewry said he hoped that the WAW gathering would similarly prove an inspiration to young Australian hospitality workers.

He said WAW actually stood for "what a wonderful world" and no - it should not be WAWW. "Nothing in this life has to make perfect, immediate sense."

The WAW team are still working out the finer details around how to accommodate the inevitable demand for tickets to the free forum on day one. But see for details as they come to hand.