There’s a special spot I reserve in my heart for people like Dan Hunter. And, by that I mean people that can get up on stage at Australia’s Top Restaurants Awards, in front of over 300 guests, and accept the prestigious award for Australia’s Best Chef with a big wry grin and a flurry of F-bombs. Sure, the award is a great achievement, it’s voted on by industry peers after all, but it’s his absolute refusal to be anyone but himself that wins me.

Restaurant critic, Terry Durack, also Co-Director of the awards with food writer Jill Dupleix, said of Dan, “As a chef, Dan is an intelligent perfectionist, and as a business owner, he’s re-writing the rulebook for regional restaurants across Australia” – “By digging down and being part of the landscape, Brae is carving out a very special place for itself where you can have a uniquely Victorian experience”.

Dan accepted his award in his own ‘unique’ way, with a gusto of humour, excitement and a healthy serving of swears, which is how we all prefer our speeches to be delivered, right? I’d quote him from the night but it would mostly just be a mix of this: $%!#^*_#. Either way, it certainly lightened the mood in the room.

It would also be remiss to not mention that Brae was awarded the number one spot as Australia’s Top Restaurant for 2017. Newcomers to the list proved a big hit on the night including, Restaurant Hubert (at number 10), Josh Nyland’s tiny Saint Peter in Paddington (11), Danielle Alvarez’s wood-fired, farm-to-table Fred’s, also in Paddington (23), Bar Liberty in Melbourne’s Fitzroy (49), former Attica chef Peter Gunn’s Ides in Melbourne (59), and Jedd Gerrard’s glamorous Perth big-night-outer, Wildflower (60).

Of course when it comes to Dan, we know he is already an awarded chef; he was named Gourmet Traveller’s Best Chef in 2015 and his restaurant Brae has earned its place on many lists including World’s 50 Best Restaurants, sliding home at number 44 for 2017.

And yes, awards are great, they are a visible flag of the numerous unseen hours of work chefs put into their restaurants, but it’s the people behind them and how they interact with their peers that’s the most telling.

Australia’s Top Restaurant Awards held at The Star was an interesting look into how chefs perceive and support each other across the industry. With 100 of Australia’s best restaurants voted on by peers for peers, the night truly demonstrated the sticky camaraderie that glues the hospitality industry together, something unseen in many other industries.

When you’ve got the teams from Bar Brose cheering for the guys at Continental Deli and the team at Hubert’s cheering for Melbourne’s Embla, it’s a really nice warm fuzzy feeling you don’t quite get with say the plethora of business awards out there. Jill Dupleix put it very simply on the night “When you do well, we do well and when we do well, the whole industry does well.”

Amen to that and well done to all involved.

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