Hats aren’t only measure of success

Highly prized, dining awards are ‘the Oscars’ of food, often seen as a measure of restaurants’ success.

For much of the world, The Michelin Guide is the pinnacle of success, but not in Australia. Our most prominent awards are The Good Food Guide Awards, launched in Melbourne as The Age Good Food Guide in 1979, slowly extended across other states until 2018, when the Good Food Guide Awards moved to a single national event covering 500 restaurants around Australia.

Researched and compiled by a team of food critics, this highly respected guide showcases the best restaurants, cafés and bars across Australia, listing and giving hats to the most accomplished establishments.

With the transition from state to national awards last year, the total number of hats awarded has dropped.

In the 2019 awards, announced in the second week of October, Queensland’s hatted restaurants dropped from 35 to 22; the Gold Coast’s hats from 5 to 4:  The Fish House, Hellenika, Kiyomi and Rick Shores.

The reasons why less awards have been awarded (especially to Queensland) are not entirely clear, whether it be our growth in casual dining at the expense of fine dining establishments, a ‘changing of the guard’, financial constraints of the awards or perhaps even a tightening of criteria by the judging panel.

Chef hats have advantages and disadvantages. They are not only seen as a measure of achievement for a restaurant but, by providing a dining guide, they can also drive business.

However, although awards have their place in spotlighting talent and performance in the hospitality industry, restaurants, most of all, need to be sustainable and economically viable. Many chefs have moved from fine ‘occasion’ dining establishments to more casual restaurants where people dine every week, placing their focus on reinvention and meeting changing market trends.

“Hats and awards don’t pay the bills,” says ex-Versace chef Peter Dufty, (now Caffe Republic’s chef/owner). “We already know these four restaurants are great. They’re not the only four great restaurants on the coast though,” he says, adding that we need to give more recognition to others, including little ‘hidden gems’.

“If you as a restauranteur/chef are smashing your own goals and staying afloat then you deserve an award,” he says.

Cheers to that!

NOTE: This article was published in The Sun newspaper on 31 October 2018.

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