OzHarvest’s Annual CEO Cookoff in Sydney raises over $1.5M in support of Australia’s most vulnerable

Celebrating its fifth year, the somewhat bittersweet and momentous occasion that is OzHarvest’s CEO Cookoff took place this week in the palatial grandeur of The Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve. It was a day that resulted in a record $1.5 million being raised for OzHarvest, with funds still climbing.

2016 has been the biggest year for the event yet, reigning in the combined efforts of 50 of Australia’s top chefs and 152 influential business leaders to do three very important things: put together beautiful meals for over a thousand disadvantaged patrons who face homelessness every day, raise awareness about food wastage, food insecurity and homelessness, and raise funds toward OzHarvest’s tireless vision of a society where no-one goes hungry – an ideal that’s not unrealistic and frustratingly deceptive to achieve, given the four million tonnes of food that we as a country send to landfill every year.

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Stepping into this year’s venue among the buzzing masses was overwhelming at best, used to the modest stylish surrounds of Carraigeworks, facing the sheer scale and rich finishes of The Cutaway proves breathtaking. The crisp cool feel of smooth concrete is offset by warm sandstone quarried from headlands along the harbour resulting in an elegantly simple yet versatile space which can be configured for any event.

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The cookoff has attracted some pretty high profile companies including Gartner’s Group Vice President Moe Ali, TFE Hotels CEO Rachel Argaman, Star Track CEO Bob Black, Foxtel Networks General Manager Hannah Barnes and Woolworths Marketing Director Andrew Hicks. After a bit of questioning around the floor it’s apparent there are a multitude of factors that have drawn these entrepreneurs here, the major one being Ozharvest’s CEO and Founder Ronni Khan an incredible woman whose energy and passion is singular and undeniable.

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Business Chicks CEO Olivia Ruello with Rockpool Chef Phil Wood

Star Track CEO Bob Black commented on how overwhelming the response had been within his company, a flood of supportive messages and fundraising BBQs helped him get to his target. The cause which is centred around the basic concept of nourishment strikes a chord at every level, for Business Chicks CEO Olivia Ruello it appeals to the nurturing aspect of her Sicilian background, whilst for XVenture Director and CEO Daniela Kraus it’s a feeling of immediacy from interacting and feeding those impacted at the event.

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A Touch of Beauty CEO Joanna Collins with husband Richard Collins

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The Trolley’d team welcome guests with Wildberry and Apple refreshments

A combined 42 chef hats make up the skill of the culinary artists participating, amongst which Rockpool’s Neil Perry, Aria’s Matt Moran and Guillaume’s Guillaume Brahimi had a friendly rivalry going for who could raise the most funds (Matt won out against Neil by a paltry $260). Guests were treated to wholesome delicious dishes put together by the talented likes of Oakridge’s Matt Stone, Biota Dining’s James Viles, 4fourteen’s Colin Fassnidge, Marque’s Mark Best, Bennelong’s Peter Gilmore, Pilu at Freshwater’s Giovanni Pilu, Aki’s Kumar Mahadevan and Black Olive’s Mark Olive – just to name a few.

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Chef Adam D’Sylva of Tonka and Coda, plating up Ozharvest Bruschetta starter

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OzHarvest handmade Grissini and Tomato and Mushroom and herb salsa Bruschetta

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Chef Hamish Ingham of Bar H main – BBQ Spatchcock with Radicchio salad, bread and anchovy vinagrette

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Chef Dan Hong of Mr Wong main – Roasted Barramundi with Asian mushrooms, snow pea sprouts, leeks, ginger and white soy dressing

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Chef Giovanni Pilu of Pilu at Freshwater dishing out his Fregola Risotto with Salumi Ragu and Pecorino

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Chef Gregory Llewellyn of Hartsyard with his Carolina style smoked pork, coleslaw, hot sauce, pickles and jonny cakes main

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Chef Mark Best of Marque Restaurant dishing out his Grilled lamb chop, spaghetti Cacio e pepe, radicchio and hazelnut salad main

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Chef Miguel Maestre’s Paella a la Maestre

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Jo Barrett and Chef Matt Stone of Oakridge Winery Restaurant Yarra Valley

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Chef Matt Stone of Oakridge Winery Restaurant Yarra Valley main – Zuchinni and Quinoa salad, BBQ flatbread

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Black Star Pastry’s mini pavlova dessert

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Chef Matt Moran of Aria and Chef Guillaume Brahimi of Guillaume’s post award ceremony, 2 of the 3 top fundraising chefs for the event

A traditional welcoming smoke ceremony by Matthew and Glenn Doyle opened the event, heartfelt speeches offered by Barangaroo Delivery Authority CEO Craig van der Laan, The Honourable David Hurley, Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore and Ozharvest CEO Ronni Khan dotted the night’s program. Entertainment consisted of a moving performance by Bangarra Dance Theatre, Ozharvest’s theme song ‘If you’ve got love’ sung by Air Land Sea and the Sydney Street Choir, hauntingly beautiful vocals of up and coming indigenous artist Yirrmal and the sheer enchantment and power of songstress Sarah Blasko.

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Brothers Matthew and Glenn Doyle perform the opening Smoking Ceremony

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Air Land Sea and the Sydney Street Choir perform ‘If you’ve got love’

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Breakthrough Indigenous artist Yirrmal onstage

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Sarah Blasko performs single ‘Over and Over’

As with each year of its existence the positivity and joy generated by everyone involved is the most remarkable and memorable thing about the CEO Cookoff, it’s very close timing to International Women’s Day solidified an even greater appreciation for Ronni Khan’s strength and determination and that of the 40 or so women in leadership at the event.

To find out more about Ozharvest visit http://www.ozharvest.org/

To learn more about the CEO Cookoff visit www.ceocookoff.com.au/