Winter Wonderland: White Night to Remember
Twenty-five chefs, 40 hours of food prep, 500 guests and 1050 duck legs – there’s much that goes into pulling off an event on a grand scale, but for Peter Rowland staff it’s all just another day in the office.
Peter Rowland has been perfecting the art of entertaining since 1962, so when our friends at Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF) decided to host a grand dinner for 500 guests as part of late-night outdoor light show White Night Reimagined, they knew who to call to help make it happen.
To celebrate the launch of White Night, MFWF hosted a spectacular winter-themed feast in the nineteenth-century splendour of Carlton’s Royal Exhibition Building. Showcasing the combined culinary talents of three of Victoria’s top chefs, the dinner was a lavish affair and a true celebration of the season – with the venue bathed in a sea of pink and purple lights and transformed into a candle-lit winter wonderland for the occasion.
The glamorous event saw guests relish in the rare occasion to spend an evening revelling in one of the city’s grandest venues, with a menu designed by guest chefs Hugh Allan of Vue de Monde; Annie Smithers of Du Fermier; and dessert queen Philippa Sibley of the European.
On arrival, guests enjoyed winter delights including roasted chestnuts, fondue vol au vents, mulled wine and schnapps followed by a three-course menu that started an entrée of pork and pistachio terrine, which chef Hugh Allan gave a native Australian twist with pickled muntries. Next was Annie Smithers’ duck braised in cider with prunes, gratin dauphinoise and parsnip. To finish, Philippa Sibley’s wonderfully old-fashioned golden syrup cobbler with spiced quince provided a perfect bookend to the dinner.
With any event of this scale, collaboration is key, and the creative vision for a menu must be matched with the operational expertise and people power of a well-seasoned large-scale entertainer to bring it to life – which is where Peter Rowland comes in.
Says Peter Rowland executive chef Matthew Haigh, who oversaw the event: “Peter Rowland has collaborated with MFWF on their events for years now, so we’ve developed a great working relationship. The festival team comes up with some amazing creative concepts and we bring our expertise to help pull it all off on a grand scale. We bounce ideas off each other and know how to play to our strengths, so it’s a great partnership.”
With planning for the dinner stretching out over two months, there was much to coordinate ahead of time. In the days leading up to the event, a team of four Peter Rowland chefs spent five days prepping ingredients. On the night – under the direction of chef Matthew – 25 Peter Rowland chefs loaded over 400 trays into the ovens and handled 3500 plates, using 200 kg of flour, 300 kg of dairy and 1050 duck legs in the process. To deliver food to diners, a team of 50 Peter Rowland wait staff walked a total of 565 kilometres on the night.
“Something we like to focus on at big events like this is ensuring good flow and a seamless experience,” says Matthew. “Yes, a huge amount of work goes into executing a restaurant-quality dining experience for 500 people, but guests shouldn’t have to think about a thing other than enjoying themselves. It’s our job to make sure that it’s all happening smoothly behind the scenes; that’s what we do best.”
To find out more about our events – big and small – head to the Events page of our website.