There’s so much pleasure in enjoying a delicious dinner, matched with local wines and good company with a penchant for the best produce this district produces. Especially if you don’t have to do the cooking. 

So with memories of the ‘Icon’ Dinners of some years ago this event, the CIT Masterclass Dinner, was a resurrection of memories of so many occasions when celebrated chefs worked with the students to produce extraordinary dinners. But now it’s the CIT’s leading graduate chefs working with the students and the winemakers from the Canberra District Wine Industry Association to create signature dishes, share the creative details and discuss their personal experience in an industry that demands so much. So we gathered, gossiped, sipped and nibbled on Ben Sanderson’s handcrafted canapés with a Lark Hill Roxanne sparkling before sitting down to indulge and enjoy. 

You wouldn’t want to be a chef if you knew just how demanding it can be and the plethora of food shows on television make it seem too easy to find fame and fortune in an industry that is relentless in its expectations and very hard work. But the CIT’s graduate chefs have done the hard yards and still have the passion required for the long hours and diminished social life.

Michael Carey is a great example of tenacity and determination, starting in kitchens at 16 then beginning his apprenticeship in 2009. Michael graduated from CIT in 2013 with qualifications in Commercial Cooking and Patisserie then took his talents to leading local restaurants to develop his culinary skills. His entree of Risotto with confit chicken, Bredbo black garlic and locally foraged greens was sublime and matched well with a wooded Pinot Gris from Contentious Character (formerly Lambert’s) at Wamboin.

Daniel Flatt is the Head Chef at Hotel/Hotel. As a 2001 graduate from CIT he’s pursued his love of seasonal food and local produce across regional Victoria and to Western Australia but coming back to Canberra he’s worked for Ginger Catering, Lambert’s Vineyard and at the Botanic Gardens before joining Hotel/Hotel’s Monster Kitchen and Bar. His Crookwell Lost River beef short rib with smoked Dutch cream potato, charred onions, pea and broadbean was a slow cooked masterful combination of flavours and texture that matched Tallagandra Hill’s The Great Ron 2016 Shiraz perfectly.

Frankie J Bodel’s dessert, Almond Cheesecake with Inge Lara rhubarb gel, peelings and crystallised fennel, was a vegan creation where the overtones of licorice from the fennel was a refreshing surprise, the smooth as silk rhubarb gel working perfectly with the cheesecake and matched to the summery fruity characters of the Kerralee Merlot Rose.

But there was more, as my favourite dessert chef Dammika Hatharasinghe working with Alain Arbaut created a perfect platter of petit fours. Bliss; with opera cakes, petite raspberry profiteroles and forest strawberry fruit paste pralines, it was time for a ‘doggy bag’..... To learn from Dammika would be the ‘icing on the cake’ for any budding pastry chef, to enjoy his creations is beyond compare.

For the winemakers this dinner was a chance to spruik their creations, encourage visits for cellar door experiences and marvel at the wine matching excellence of these Canberra chefs. Wines from Lark Hill, Contentious Character, Tallagandra Hill and Kerralee were given to the chefs to match to their food. It’s usually the other way around, but all winemakers were delighted with the result.

Delicious. And a great way to showcase Canberra District Wine and the talents of CIT’s best and brightest.