Sydney escapes the daily grind

Sydney’s growing reputation as a gourmet destination is enticing event planners and their delegates to look beyond the meeting room and interact with the city’s vibrant food culture.

BY LAUREN ARENA

The cobblestone paths of Sydney’s historic precinct The Rocks were filled with droves of coffee-loving visitors as the 15th annual Aroma Festival took place on Sunday July 21, with a week of caffeinated activities leading up to the event.
Presented by Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA), the festival attracted tens of thousands of visitors who sampled the black elixir direct from coffee merchants and producers offering boutique and Fair-trade beans, single origin and organic coffees, along with sweet treats from more than 65 stalls including wickedly good chocolatiers, pâtissiers and cupcake bakers.

But organising the largest annual coffee festival in the Southern Hemisphere is no easy feat, as SHFA creative producer, Michael Cohen tells micenet AUSTRALIA.
“Imagine you are opening a café in your garage tomorrow morning. You’ll need to get the plumbing in, run sufficient power to your machines, make it hospitable, etcetera. The Aroma Festival is like doing that outdoors in George Street, 40 times over, in one of the busiest parts of the city – and getting it in, filling it with visitors and getting it out all within three days.

“Our production and operation teams deserve medals for the logistical feats they are able to produce.
“Over the last 15 years the Foreshore Authority has produced a finely-tuned festival machine that manages to keep stallholders, sponsors and, most importantly, our visitors coming back year after year,” he said.
So what’s the secret to producing a successful, large-scale event that stands the test of time? Mr Cohen says reinvention is the key.

“When events stay the same for too long they can become predictable and potentially die off. A festival is not a train station that needs to run the same each day, it should always be surprising and provide an adventure for its visitors.
“Producing festivals is all about setting up contexts in which people from all sorts of backgrounds can have random, happy experiences, bump into each other, learn new things and enjoy a sense of spontaneity above and beyond their normal lives.
The centerpiece of this year’s event was the creation of the world’s largest coffee mosaic. Taking latte art to a whole new level, volunteers from the Foreshore Authority broke the Guinness World Record with a colossal portrait of Dame Edna Everage made of 8000 carefully arranged coffee cups, 1000 litres of milk and 1100 litres of coffee.

“This year we really put the emphasis back on the bean with boutique roasters, big-end roasters and new techniques and methods,” says Mr Cohen.
“The Aroma Festival is one of those hallmark food events on the Sydney calendar; people wait for it in the same way they anticipate the Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park. Aroma has really been a champion for specialty gourmet offerings and, in turn, helps to raise the city’s profile as a gourmet destination.” m

Royal Randwick unveiled

Royal Randwick racecourse is back in business, with the new $160 million grandstand opening its doors to Australian Turf Club (ATC) members, corporate guests and the public last month in the lead up to the 2013 Spring Carnival.
The landmark grandstand is set become one of Sydney’s prime racing and entertainment venues, catering for major race days as well as large corporate and social events with free WiFi throughout and the largest LED screen in the Southern Hemisphere.

“This is an important milestone in the history of Sydney racing,” ATC chief executive, Darren Pearce, said last month when the club first took possession of the grandstand from contractors, Brookfield Multiplex.
“There has not been a major sporting facility of this scale built since the 2000 Olympics and this is what Sydney racing fans and the wider community have been looking forward to for many years,” he said.
Across all of its five levels, the grandstand has the capacity to host 4200 people in a banquet set-up, or 7900 cocktail-style, with all spanning views across the racecourse and surrounding parklands.

The state-of-the-art ballroom, on level two, can seat up to 1000 guests and has already played host to a number of major corporate events including the Kennedy Awards, one of the largest media events in Australia, which took place in August and was attended by NSW premier Barry O’Farrell, major events and hospitality minister, George Souris, and more than 500 high-prolife media identities.
Along with the grandstand, Randwick’s new mounting yard, the Theatre of the Horse, provides a 4000 pax outdoor amphitheatre space for private functions and is the first of its kind for any Australian racecourse.

ATC chairman John Cornish said the grandstand’s construction and fit-out is of the highest standards.
“This is destined to be one of the seven wonders of the racing world and we’ve modelled the design on world’s best practice,” he said.
“The ability to see the horses is better here than at Ascot and not even Singapore has a grandstand as elaborate as this.” m