Meetings Newz / July 2016

‘Some of these people had never been to Melbourne before and others have been a number of times – and for us the challenge is to present Melbourne in a whole new light no matter how often people had visited the city.’ 

Norris points out that The Finest Cut is far more than a tour – it includes panel discussions, dine-arounds, inspiring demonstrations and opportunities to network not only with other Kiwi hospitality operators and their hosts from Gilmours, but with many hospitality operators based in Melbourne. 

‘Participants are rubbing shoulders with people who not only share a passion for the industry, but also face many of the same challenges – it’s all about learning and developing from each other.’

The Finest Cut, a biennial programme, first ran in 2014 with 150 people split into three groups. Norris says this year’s version involves 260 people over four groups. The trips are built around a Gilmours store and its customers, along with representatives from the national support office.

Norris says the programme, as usual, was a full one but participants still had some time to explore and experience some of Melbourne sights on their ‘hit-list’.

The group stayed at the Langham Hotel in Grand Classic rooms, giving them a central location by the Yarra River. But even on the way to the hotel the group had some surprises – with a stop at Queen Victoria market adding life to the transfer.

After a couple of hours to relax, the evening activities started with a happy hour at the Bomba (one of Melbourne’s many iconic bars) and then (broken into smaller groups) some of the top restaurants ‘north of the river’ including Cumulus Up, Lucy Liu, The European, Movida Next Door and Supernormal.

The following days started (apart from optional morning exercise) with a breakfast dine around of some ‘epic venues’ each with their own offering, followed by an educational session Greg called ‘On the Couch with Hilary McNevin’. 

OneNineFive lined up culinary ‘heavy hitters’ – Banjo Harris Plane (beverages); Joe Molloy (coffee); Mel Young (social media); Dave Verheul (chef); Angie Giannakodakis (service) - to sit on the couch alongside McNevin (culinary advisor of The Finest Cut) and share their experiences. 

Again, much of the day was spent getting behind the scenes at restaurants and sampling everything from fried chicken for lunch to a wine and food matched dining experience in the evening which took place south of the river – again a bunch of restaurants all eager to host their new ‘Kiwi friends’, including Donovans, Hotel Gitan, Di Stasio, Circa and The Smith. 

A highlight of day three was ‘My Melbourne’, when a line up of ‘the best of the best’ showed the Kiwis a side of Melbourne they had never experienced before. 

Greg enlisted the help of seven leading chefs / restaurateurs and gave them the brief to ‘show them your Melbourne’. The line up of what became known as the Magnificent Seven included Guy Grossi, Daniel Wilson, Angie Giannakodakis, Sean Donovan, Ian Curley, Nicky Reimer and Ashley Davis. Each chef took a group of eight to 10 on a culinary journey. They visited organic butchers, stretched mozzarella, foraged for beach herbs, roasted coffee, explored the live fish market and tasted wine and beer. 

Mag seven

A Final Night Celebration Dinner hosted and cooked by Guy Grossi and his team and the sharing of stories about what the group had all experienced brought day three to a tting close. Then on day four, a relaxed breakfast and morning was followed by a casual lunch with a beer or wine close to the hotel, and then the screening of the highlights reel, shot and edited by OneNineFive before heading back to New Zealand.

‘This was about the participants being truly inspired again, doing their best and reaching their potential and taking back ideas to build and grow their New Zealand business,’ says Norris.

Kylie de Vries, marketing manager, Gilmours, says Melbourne was the ideal location to enable the achievement of strategic goals for Gilmours and its customers. 

‘Greg and Carlene (Staines) at OneNineFive created a very special Melbourne community and through this delivered an experience that has been described by our customers as a ‘trip of a lifetime’ and a ‘money can’t buy experience’. 

Jenny Aitken, country manger New Zealand for Business Events Australia / Tourism Australia, says that while the Gilmours event was specifically food and beverage focused, incentives and conferences in any sector can embrace the Restaurant Australia concept. 

‘Whether it be a scientific meeting or a building supplies sales incentive, the unbeatable quality of Australia’s fresh produce, wine and expert chefs combine to enhance any business event,’ Aitken says. 

Norris agrees and says that while Melbourne has been the star location for The Finest Cut to date Australia obviously has many destinations where food and beverage are to the fore.