A changing of the guard at Hunter Culinary Association | FOOD NEWS

END OF AN ERA: Outgoing Hunter Culinary Association chairman Ben Neil. Gus Maher will take over the reins in 2018. Picture: Dominique Cherry
END OF AN ERA: Outgoing Hunter Culinary Association chairman Ben Neil. Gus Maher will take over the reins in 2018. Picture: Dominique Cherry

There has been a changing of the guard at Hunter Culinary Association (HCA). Newcastle Tourism Industry Group’s general manager Gus Maher is taking over as chairman from Ben Neil, who spent 10 years in the role.   

Under Neil’s guidance the HCA introduced annual industry scholarships and encouragement awards and fostered a long-term partnership with TAFE NSW – Hunter Institute to transform the highly-coveted Brett Graham Scholarship into a $10,000 prize package. The dynamic not-for-profit association is guided by industry professionals who volunteer their time to promote the Hunter region and give back to an industry they are passionate about.

“I was asked by the original association founders Robert Molines, Andy Wright and Nick Vivian to take over the running of the association to guide the association towards a more business-focused approach,” Neil said.

“I have remained as chair for so long because the position was made so pleasurable and rewarding thanks to the relationships we’ve built between local operators, industry people and the HCA partners. For me, personally, it has also been amazing to see kids as young apprentices or front-of-house professionals beginning their careers then years later taking out key HCA scholarships or competitions and going on to become some of the region’s best operators.”

Incoming Hunter Culinary Association chairman Gus Maher. Picture: Simone De Peak

Incoming Hunter Culinary Association chairman Gus Maher. Picture: Simone De Peak

He said he was “extremely confident” the HCA would be in good hands with Maher.

“Gus is a well-known identity in the industry. He has worked across tourism, the wine industry as well as the event and marketing industries for many years. He is a keen foodie and passionate flag waver of the region’s tourism.”

The new HCA committee is: Gus Maher, Lisa Margan, Garreth Robbs, Clare Bremerkamp and Kyle Whitbourne.

Fresh start

Beach Bar, Shoal Bay Country Club. Picture: Supplied

Beach Bar, Shoal Bay Country Club. Picture: Supplied

Shoal Bay Country Club is undergoing a $6 million overhaul under the watchful eye of owner Andrew Lazarus, director of Eastern Hotels Group. The Beach Bar has opened, with the bistro launching on December 11 and Mermaids Cafe on December 18. Live music kicks off later this month and fun school holiday activities have been planned for the kids. 

Looking good

A new addition to Sherwood Coffee Car’s menu catches the eye: Indian spiced lamb roti with cocount and coriander slaw, served with yoghurt and chutney. It’s $14.

Helping hand

Newy Burger Co. is calling on the community to get behind brave little Kane Ransom and his family. Kane was just three when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2014. He fought bravely for two long years and seemed to be in the clear however just last month he fell ill again. Seriously ill. Doctors informed Kane’s parents, Natalie and Brendan, that the cancer was back. 

Newy Burger Co. is hosting a fundraiser for the Ransoms at The Cambridge on December 21, kicking off at 6.30pm. Dru Russell has kindly offered the venue free of charge. Murray’s Brewery are donating kegs and both Newy Burger Co. and Bao Bros Eatery will be filling bellies on the night. Also, Boo Seeka has offered to play a “backyard show” as an auction prize. Businesses are being asked to dig deep and contribute. Every cent raised will help the Ransom family with the costs associated with this battle. 

Tickets to Christmas 4 Kane are just $60 and can be purchased at Newy Burger Co. in Newcastle or Maitland. Come along and help a local family doing it tough this Christmas. 

Happy 21st

Cafe Enzo has just marked a major milestone by giving away a $30,000 wedding package. Melissa Blanch purchased the Pokolbin business 21 years ago and co-owns it with executive chef David Warren. His cooking philosophy? Good food and lots of it.

“I never want to walk out of a restaurant and be hungry,” he told Food & Wine. “And nothing is better than homemade. We make all our own jams, chutneys, pestos and dressings. We believe in fresh produce and cooking everything on-site.”

One of Cafe Enzo’s most popular dishes is the linguini with tiger prawns, fresh chilli, baby tomatoes, chorizo, lemon butter sauce and shaved parmesan. “We took it off the menu once many years ago and a lot of our local guests got upset. The dish was back on the menu within the week and has stayed there ever since,” Blanch said.

Cheese please

Hunter Belle Cheese Room opens this weekend at Ben Ean Complex, 119 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin. From 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday you can enjoy free tastings, giveaways and more. 

Food parcels

Mayfield Food Pantry at 23 Valencia Street is helping the less fortunate until December 29. Food parcels are distributed every second Friday, 10am to noon. A minimum donation of $10 is required for each parcel. 

Bigger and better

The rumours were true. Antojitos is moving from its cosy Carrington digs to a purpose-built venue on Steel Street in Newcastle West. Work has started on the new premises, Food & Wine was told, with a view to opening in January or February. 

Final goodbyes

King St. Depot at Warners Bay is closing – for good – on December 16. As a memento, owner Daniyella Spudic is putting together a recipe book filled with photos of the popular little cafe over the years. If you pop in, bring cash because EFTPOS will not be available during the final weekend of trading. 

Coffee first

The first Zarraffa’s Coffee store in NSW will open at Belmont North this month. 

The Australian-owned, Queensland-based coffee franchise chain is designed for people on the move, says managing director Kenton Campbell. Zarraffa’s will open on December 15 at the former Red Rooster site at 397 Pacific Highway. 

“As with all of our store locations we aim to position ourselves where we can be most easily accessed,” Campbell said. 

“A great coffee on the way into work in Newcastle, while popping into Bunnings or when fuelling up at petrol station, this is where we can make a difference in someone’s day.”

Belmont North franchisees Trent Moody and Oliver Humphry have relocated to Lake Macquarie from the Gold Coast.