I kicked off the Grand Prix by attending the Mercedes Benz Ladies Lunch.
The annual lunch gets bigger and better every year and is always an event not to be missed.
Renowned chef Shane Delia was in charge of the menu and I sat down with him to have a chat about how he gets ready to cater such an enormous event.
RR: Now I am a massive foodie, by husband is a WOG, I am a WOG, I have been lucky enough to dine at your restaurant, is the menu today featuring similar dishes to the restaurant or is it a bit more exclusive to the Grand Prix?
SD: Well what we do for the Ladies Luncheon is try to take inspiration from Maha as I am representing Mercedes but I am also representing my premium brand which is Maha, but across the Grand Prix I try and keep it specific for this event as it is a really important event and across the track we are doing heaps of different stuff. Stuff that I could really only cook at the Grand Prix because every day of the week I cook Middle Eastern food.
RR: This is the busiest week for you, what does it take to prepare for an event as big as the Grand Prix? Is it weeks, months of preparation?
SD: We start planning for the next Grand Prix as soon as this one is over. We will do a big debrief on Wednesday next week and discuss what went right, what went wrong, what we could do better and then we look of continuous improvement. We start writing the menu about four months out and then logistically work them back. We've got 40 thousand people; so how many staff do we need to get it done. It's a big job
RR: It's a big job, and a big team effort! Speaking of team effort, do you have a lot of your staff member come on board and help you out during the week or is it a brand new team you work with specifically for the Grand Prix?
SD: It is a fun event, and from a cooking perspective, not a lot of chefs get to be exposed to this level of volume and this level of quality. This is a real foodie venue. This isn't just a racetrack with deep fried dim sims and chips; people come her to be wined and dined and have some good corporate hospitality. So I try to bring as many of my team as I can because it is a real treat for them. You know they work hard but this is opening something new to them along with a great team of Rowland's Catering who we work closely with all year round.
RR: The people who attend the Grand Prix will get to experience the M Lane, where they can get a little slice of Maha, can you tell us what's on the menu?
SD: I have chosen two of our classic dishes. We have our slow cooked lamb shoulder with beautiful seasoned nuts and spices but we also have created a couple of dishes that are a bit lighter and exclusive to this event. At then end of the day the M Lane is about the people and its out in the general admission. You have been walking around all day and normally the only option you have is a pie, a burger or a Taco so now you can actually sit down and have a meal and everyone knows that Melbournians love a good feed.
RR: Being at the Grand Prix, I couldn't finish this interview without asking who your favourite to win the race is. Do you have any hot tips?
SD: Well look Lewis Hamilton he drives for Mercedes so you want to see him get up there and you want to see him standing on the podium, so that would be nice.
After enjoying the beautiful foods and cocktails I headed over to M Lane to view all the food trucks and the delicious meals they have on offer.
For the first time at the event, general admission fans are able to experience delights from some of Melbourne best chef's whilst listening to Dj's such as Yo Mafia and APAX, which will be sure to keep the party going.
After checking out the M-Lane and the food truck I headed to the 'Paddock Club' which was full of guest enjoying the grand prix from the luxury of the beautiful lounge.
To finish off what was an amazing day I was shown through to the corporate boxes where companies such as Qantas, Bentley and Land rover/ Jaguar will host their VIP Guests over the Grand Prix weekend.
Situated right above Pit Lane it is pretty hard to find a better spot to enjoy the race whilst dining on meals prepared by some of Australia's best chefs.
I was then back on the Track on Friday and this time I got all the behind the scenes actions from the kitchens and sat down with two legendary chefs Jacques Reymond and Desert King Darren Purches from Burch and Purches.
First up was my interview with the legend himself, Mr. Jacques Raymond.
RR: After having three years off from the Grand Prix, you are now back.
What's it like to be back catering for such a big international event? Is it a lot of pressure keeping everyone full and happy?
JR: It is a lot of pressure but it is really fantastic to see the evolution that Melbourne has had with the Grand Prix. It is huge and we have 800 people just working here, you know behind the scene, so much equipment, so much info structure, which is needed, and people don't really realize.
It is a big buzz and I am so happy to have the Grand Prix here. It is a really big event around the world and what is fascinating is that when I go to my little village in France which is in a very very remote area, All I here is 'we cant wait to see Melbourne on the Television'
I say "when do you see Melbourne on the Television" and they say on the Grand Prix.RR: What does it take to get ready for such a big event? Is it months of menu planning and taste testing?
JR: It is first important to get the right people to work with you, and this is not easy today because you have to go through agencies, so sometimes you get some very competent people and sometimes they are not so good. This is the hardest part.
To come up with the menu it is very simple. At this time of the year it is wonderful as it is Autumn, so you have great produce. The lamb is good and the vegetables are coming back so it is very easy to compose that.
The big stress is to be well prepared and organized This is important You don't want your guest to be delayed, you don't want them to miss on food if there is a shortage or I it is not hot enough, so there is a whole set of consideration to take to make sure if is going to be a huge success.
RR: What would you say your most successful dish that you have been serving?
JR: That would have to be the BBQ Pork Belly with the pickled wombok, this is very tasty and as soon as it comes out people jump on it. Australians have a fascination with Pork Belly. Everyone loves it, so I knew it would be successful.RR: In terms of the race, I know food is what you are expert in, however do you have any tips on who you think will win the race?
JR: I want to send big wishes to Alonzo because he has been struggling in the past two years. For me he is an extraordinary driver, probably the best for me. So he needs a lot of encouragement and it would be wonderful to see him at the top.