Chef Andre Chiang of the two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Andre and award-winning mixologist Vijay Mudaliar from Native bar have been invited to participate in a four-day food, produce and wine extravaganza in Australia later this year.
Presented by Audi, the Margaret River Gourmet Escape will feature a line-up of international culinary stars and is slated to take place from Nov 16 to 19.
Chiang, 41, is part of the starry line-up, with his restaurant in Bukit Pasoh Road ranked No. 14 on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list this year. It is also ranked No. 2 on this year's Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list.
This will be Chiang's second time at the festival. He participated in the inaugural edition of the festival in 2012.
This year, the Taiwan-born chef will be taking part in several events, including a dinner, two cooking demonstrations and a panel discussion.
For the dinner, he will be presenting innovative dishes based on his ethos, Octaphilosophy, with its eight elements: Pure, Salt, Artisan, Texture, South, Unique, Memory and Terroir.
The dinner will see him collaborating with Seth James, head chef of Wills Domain Winery & Restaurant in Margaret River, who is also known for his innovative dishes.
Win a trip for two
Subscribers to The Straits Times can take part in a contest in October to win an all-expenses-paid trip worth $10,000 for two to attend the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. The trip includes return flights on Singapore Airlines, a two-night hotel stay and tickets to the festival, including exclusive access to sold-out dinners.
Chiang is planning to serve a dish that looks like cuts of red meat draped over a bone, except that the "meat" is actually watermelon.
He explains: "We're going to Australia, which is known for its meat, especially its beef. I want to start with something interesting and playful. The first thing that we serve sets the tone for the whole dinner, and I want diners to know that this is not going to be an ordinary meal."
However, he says he "may just change it on the spot".
"This is my idea now. I just thought of it yesterday. But I'm very spontaneous - that's how we work at Restaurant Andre too. When I go there, depending on what I taste and see, I might have a different idea."
For his cooking demonstrations, he will be using 100 per cent Western Australian produce, something the festival is seeking to showcase. He especially hopes to work seasonal produce into his dishes.
He says: "I want people to connect immediately with the ingredients that I use."
Singaporean Mudaliar, 28, is also seeking to create a lasting impression with the cocktails that he is concocting for the festival.
The founder of Native bar in Amoy Street will be participating in two events, both of which will see him craft cocktails made with native foraged ingredients - something his bar is known for.
Some of his favourite local foraging spots include Labrador Park, Pulau Ubin and the Tanjong Pagar area near his bar.
He picks up items such as turmeric leaves, the belimbing fruit and even ants, and works them into his cocktails.
His creativity has paid off. Native is not yet a year old, but has already picked up several awards.
At the fourth edition of The Bar Awards held earlier this year, it took home the award for Most Creative Cocktail Bar and Mudaliar was named Bartender of the Year.
Having never participated in the Margaret River Gourmet Escape, Mudaliar says he is excited about being there.
He says: "Everything is going to be new and fresh to me. I'm going there as a blank canvas, without any pre-conceived notions."
He plans to go on a reconnaissance trip later this month before the festival, his first time to Margaret River, and bring back native Australian ingredients to experiment with.
Creating a new cocktail usually takes him between three and six months, he says. While it remains to be seen what he will come up with for the festival, one thing is for sure. "The cocktails will reflect and respect the culture of the land. It's all about knowing where we are from, who we are and what's around us," he says.
Note: The story has been edited for clarity.