Behind the scenes at Melbourne’s Good Food & Wine Show

Event director Claire Back speaks to Spice about the challenges and rewards of producing the annual show.

Article by Gwen Luscombe

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre was a foodie paradise recently as the Good Food & Wine Show brought the celebrity chefs, cooking demonstrations and plenty of tastings from May 31 to June 2.

Spice caught up with event director, Claire Back from Talk2 Media & Events to go behind the scenes of this successful show.

Event director Claire Back

“Good Food & Wine Show has been close to my heart since I moved from Perth to Melbourne in 2001,” she said.

“Six months into my move, I started as a sales executive for the Good Food & Wine Show and then worked my way up into management and then event director.

“The show was owned by Diversified Events and the company’s CEO was Matthew Pearce. In 2016, Matt decided to buy the consumer arm of that business with the CFO Steve Malbourne – I then moved across to the new company Talk2 Media to continue to run the shows for them.”

More on offer than ever

The show, now in it’s 18th year, regularly draws an audience of more than 100,000 food and wine lovers to Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.

This year the show had more than 300 producers, including more than 800 wines to sample and 120 cheeses, said Back.

“We have a 500-seater celebrity chef theatre, many interactive masterclasses and a dedicated dining area, Let’s Eat by the Citi Dining Program,” she said.

Back added, this year the show had an overwhelming number of new masterclasses and regional tourism stands participating, showcasing their destinations as prime hotspots for foodies including Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Margaret River and Mudgee.

“New masterclasses include an Emperor Champagne and caviar tasting with the Champagne Dame; Knife Skills with Furi Knives where some of Australia’s best chefs will show attendees everything from learning the skills to de-bone a chicken, fillet a fish and basic butchery skills,” she said.

“We have a new series of food and wine matching classes in our Wine Selectors Cellar Door space, including: Wine and Swine, Shiraz Sizzle and Happy Endings,” she said.

Visitors also discovered new products such as Vegan cheese, pocket negroni, personalised whisky bottles, Belgium chocolates, fresh truffles and a new range of non-alcoholic spirits from the UK.

Appealing to the masses

Back said she is proud of the show and how much it has to offer a wide variety of visitors.

“Walking through the show it is so interesting to see teenagers that are interested in meeting George Calombaris, Maggie Beer or Colin Fassnidge, who they look to as their foodie heroes,” she said.

“Then you come across wine enthusiasts that range from twenty-year-olds to baby boomers engaged in palate appreciate classes, talking to the winemakers and updating their cellars.

“I am proud we can offer this for over 120,000 people over the year and hope our visitors continue to learn something new from the experiences we put on.”

Evolving with a changing industry

The Good Food & Wine Show has evolved significantly since it’s beginnings. Back said it’s her team’s responsibility to stay on top of the ever-changing food and wine landscape and general event trends.

“We conduct research and visit shows over the world to look at global trends,” she said.

“We obviously need to cater for all types of dietary requirements and the rise of food intolerances and preferences.

“It’s great to see our visitors wanting to know where their produce is coming from, wanting to meet the maker and listen to their stories.

“We also try to ensure there is a range of interesting producers including natural wines, vegan cheeses, non-alcoholic spirits (just in time for dry July).”

And with a multiple day exhibition held in four major cities, it’s certainly not without its challenges.

“The challenge, I suppose, is juggling all the different aspects,” she said.

“From contractors, talent, PR and media, to visitor and exhibitor requests, adhering to various legislations around liquor licensing and food safety.”

As for the most rewarding aspect, she said it comes back to her team.

“The most rewarding part of my job is working with my fantastic, talented team and producing the four events together,” said Back.

“I love seeing engaged visitors leave after having a fun day out, learning new skills and/or discovering new products.”

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