Cuisine Now Gala Dinner

(Doltone House)

Thank you, Simon Thomsen and good evening, everyone. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land.

I would also like to acknowledge the NSW Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Barry O'Farrell, the Hon George Souris, Shadow Minister for Tourism, and Mr Patrick Benhamou, Director of A Tout France.

Congratulations to Tony Bilson and to the fantastic chefs whose skills are delighting us this evening.

Tony is generally known as the "godfather of Australian cuisine" and since he had the very good sense to move from Melbourne to Sydney in the 1970s, his influence on the cuisine of our city has been profound.

With his intellectual rigour and scholarship, he has educated not only the many fine chefs who have worked with him, but a whole generation of Sydney diners.

Indeed, as Simon Thomsen, tonight's MC, has written, few people understand the symbiosis of food and wine and art as Tony Bilson.

He has used that understanding to introduce Cuisine NOW, adding another layer to the rich cultural life of our city.

As far back as 1894, a prescient Surgeon General of NSW, Phillip E. Muskett, wrote that Australians should swap their diet of overcooked meat, beer and rum for fresh fish, olive oil and wine - what we now call the Mediterranean diet.

Over half a century later, thanks to our migrant intake, we began that shift, and Australia is now internationally recognised in gastronomy.

Cuisine NOW puts us in that international context and strengthens ties with great chefs such as Paul Bocuse and Michel Roux while allowing our younger chefs to form cultural friendships with the rising young names of Europe.

This year, we welcome two young stars of contemporary cuisine: Jean-Luc Rochas from Bordeaux and Serge Vieira and Marie Aude from Cantal.

Our Australian chefs - Shannon Bennet of Vue de Monde in Melbourne, and Brent Savage of Bentley Restaurant and Bar represent the new generation of great Australian chefs.

They are following in the steps of Tony himself, of Guillaume Brahimi and Tetsuya who have added to the depth of our gastronomic culture and continue to be great international ambassadors for Sydney.

I welcome the growing recognition Sydney is receiving as a gastronomic destination, and thank all our chefs for helping make it such a wonderful place to live and visit.

The work of the avant-garde always filters through into the general culture - just think of all those TV cooking shows! - so I thank all the chefs tonight for giving us such a great future to look forward to. And once again, our thanks to Tony and Amanda Bilson for their commitment to Sydney cuisine.