Thursday April 30

From our Festival reporter, Diana Brown

Three chefs, three musicians: six virtuosi at the Arboretum

On Thursday night, at the inaugural Chefs of Canberra dinner, the vaulted space of the Arboretum was transformed into a fairyland for grown-ups, Moët and oysters included. On each white table, Show Pony Events, had placed a very tall glass vase containing white-painted osiers and tiny lights. Those fairy lights were reflected back to us from the huge windows, and in the background shimmered the lights of Canberra. Behind the makeshift stage a black backdrop was dotted with white lights. When William Barton played his didgeridoo, we all dreamed of a desert sky. Alex Sloan, of ABC 666, and Stefano di Pieri, the down-to-earth restaurateur from Mildura, were relaxed and charming co-hosts and quite obviously enjoying the evening. How food of such subtlety and variety can be created for over 200 guests, I do not know, but it was: smoky potato tortellini in a fragrant dashi, salmon poached to perfection in olive oil, tender and intriguingly flavoured veal, delectable lemon tart from Silo. The three Canberra chefs – Ben Willis of Aubergine, James Musillon of Courgette, Clément Chauvin of Les Bistronomes and chef of the evening Janet Jeffs of Ginger Catering – kindly donated their time to this Festival fundraising event. They took their bows to great applause. Roland Peelman’s choice of music and musicians was inspired. William Barton’s voice and the extraordinary sounds from his ancient instrument reached the recesses of the building. That ‘sorceress of percussion’, Claire Edwardes, enchanted us with her marimba, and Amy Dickson demonstrated how sinuous and heart-piercing the saxophone can be, including in a CPE Bach sonata. The three performers came together at the end in what was surely the musical highlight of the evening and a foretaste of great things to come.

Let the Festival begin!