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Everyone Needs to EAT!

A new cruise terminal, a major community event, improvements to sporting facilities and loads of private investment to build places that will accommodate thousands of people and businesses – yes, this is Newcastle!

I am, some might say, old enough to remember our town as being a place dominated by waterfront activity, steelmaking and coalmining. In 2016, I am proud to say that we still honour our heritage and we are generally very proud of our role in powering the world through our magnificent Port. However and perhaps more importantly, I also recognise that we have created a place that anchors a vibrant culture, business community and education hub. A place that attracts interest and investment – a place where people want to be and a place to which people want to come.

Over the past few years, our region has been successful in attracting events including the Asian Pacific Special Olympics, the International Children’s Games, International Rugby tests and of course, the Asia Cup let alone the dozens of homemade events and festivals including This is Not Art and the Newcastle Writers’ Festival.

Most recently, our town was chosen as the venue for a major motorsport event. Why? Because despite ourselves, we know how to welcome people into our region.

You might ask ‘why is a chef talking about tourism?’ The answer is simple. Everyone needs to eat.

Terms like ‘visitor economies’ rightly identify that modern tourism is much more than hotels, fun parks and attractions. It’s about creating places and experiences for visitors, and a big part of this is about being able to grab a good coffee and enjoy a great meal.

This is not a new view of mine, but I will say it again. Our region is home to some of the world’s best restaurateurs.

Our valley is of course on the ‘foodies’ radar winning many accolades in Australia’s top food guides and awards. But, don’t underestimate the quality coming out of the lower Hunter.

These people consistently serve up food that is of great quality in places that appeal to locals and visitors alike. Take a look at some of the fine dining experiences like Subo, Rustica, Restaurant Mason and to be a little cheeky, Carrington Place.

Then have a look at the exciting new mix of a pub that is a restaurant that is a coffee house, located in a converted space that used to house storage areas, garages and halls. Then think about the hundreds of cafes and coffee houses that brew some of the country’s finest blends for our morning and afternoon rituals.

Not only are these people consistently creating ‘great grub’ for locals, but they also employ thousands of people and create their own economies through supply chains and purchasing activities. But importantly, the role of local restaurants and cafés is increasingly becoming important to the way our region puts its best visitor economy foot forward.

I can assure you that, like me, many of these people have the V8 Supercars event and a new cruise terminal firmly in their sights as business opportunities. They will get creative, and they will get competitive. In turn, this will drive up quality and innovation, and I suggest that we are about to see the next step-up in local food. So, get your taste buds ready Newcastle, because everyone needs to eat and may as well eat well.

Scott Webster is a Newcastle-born chef who has worked at leading international restaurants. In the Hunter, he owns the award-winning Carrington Place and artisan-style Throsby Street Providore.

Scott is also an international food consultant and manufacturer and spends some of his time working and managing his Michelin Star Singapore restaurant Osia Steak and Seafood.

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