Even with all the ‘foodie event’ mishaps we’ve recently encountered, Sydney’s cultural hard on for food festivals remains seemingly unspoiled. If anything it has ripened, and our thirst for these culinary merry-go-rounds has spawned a whole new niche of ‘foodie’ festivals and of course a whole new spate of salty festival-goers.
I’ll be honest, I love people and they’re kind of a big part of my job, but it doesn’t mean I have to like lining up behind them, being squashed between them and have them get all up in my face with their sticky food and fingers and foodie gramming. So, as a rookie festival-goer at best, I enlisted the help of Merivale executive chef Dan Hong and Sam Egerton, head of operations for The Paddington to help me navigate my way through Merivale’s annual food festival, March Into Merivale, like a decent human being.
These are a few “suggestions” to help you walk away with dignity when attending your next foodie fest.
1. Get in early & reverse eat
There’s times to be late, like to the gym on a Saturday or your ex-boyfriend’s birthday, but food festivals are not one of them, in fact it will cost you sorely.
This year March Into Merivale opted for a one night extravaganza to showcase the hospitality group’s wide and varied offering as opposed to their usual month long festival. This meant all the food on the night was a free for all at the cost of a ticket over receiving food and drink tokens.
Sam Egerton’s advice in this sort of situation is pretty much genius and I’m downright dirty I never thought of it before.
“Get in early and engage the staff working the festival. This way you can find out where the food is coming from and set up a good plan for the night. It’s also an idea to reverse eat, so you eat dessert first in order to beat the lines.”
Dessert for dinner? Get in.
2. Don’t cut lines, don’t be a jerk
Lines, people walking slowly on a public footpath, anyone stopping aimlessly in the middle of a crowded room; all things I would rather stub my toe on a metal grate than endure. In saying that, it’s absolutely not ok to cut a line even if it is just for one dumpling or a Mr Wong salt and pepper lamb cutlet.
Friends don’t let friend’s cut lines guys, unless that line’s for the bathroom after you’ve had 6 chilli margaritas in under an hour.
3. Manners will get you places
When you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of sweaty humans fighting for the last lamb taco, it’s easy to take out your frustration on the staff. But, it’s important to remember as Dan Hong says, “Staff are people too,” and it’s not their fault there’s long lines, people shoving you out of the way and jerks with bad B.O and bad manners.
The common please and thank you goes a long way.
4. Don’t be greedy
I get it, it’s our human nature to gravitate towards shit that’s free, like Lord of the Flies we are all lost boys grabbing at food like disappearing rations before a famine. But, this isn’t Sizzler, mate.
Dan Hong, who has been involved in countless food festivals in his time as a chef and was responsible for the entire Ash St laneway at the festival said, “When I go to a food festival, I just want to eat lots of different food. In my laneway on the night the vibe was awesome with lots of people, we had charcoal BBQ’s, wok burners, it was a really awesome atmosphere. What can happen though is some people stick to one stall and then before you know it, we run out of food”
“Don’t be rude, be well behaved and don’t stand around waiting for six dumplings in a row.”
5. Get off your phone
In fairness, Merivale know how to throw a party, actually, they know how to throw everything they’ve got into making a place sparkle and look extra gramworthy. The 20 metre long cheese table in the Ivy Ballroom said it all. So, obvy, hard not to gram that stuff.
But realistically, the food is only half of the experience, otherwise we’d all just go to the individual restaurants. So don’t waste the experience hanging about on your phone while you gram, snap and whatsapp your foodie friends. You’ll miss out on all the fun and probably the cheese, mostly the cheese. And no one wants to miss out on cheese.
At the end of the night, I came away with a full stomach and zero sunburn, which gauging by recent food festivals is a bit of a win.
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Images via Merivale and Liam Farrow.