The West Australian Good Food Guide is more than a knees-up and a listing on the revered WA Good Food Guide website. Winning an award means serious business for those restaurants and bars claiming the top gongs. So while it’s been nine long months since WA hospo kicked up its heels at the 2018 Good Food Guide Awards, for those award winning chefs and restaurateurs, the taste of victory remains sweet.

“The Awards set the restaurant in the spotlight and boosted team morale,” 2018 Regional Chef of the Year Santi Fernandez said. In addition to earning top honours for himself, Santi played a pivotal role in securing Voyager Estate the title of 2018 Regional Restaurant of the Year.

“Bookings increased considerably for a number of months and the expectations were really high. We were fully booked on traditional quiet days in the quieter tourism months and for any business in regional areas that’s a huge impact.”

Similarly, up the road at 2018 Restaurant of the Year Wills Domain, critical acclaim from WAGFG Editor Rob Broadfield continues to boost patronage for the Yallingup winery restaurant.

“The recognition has certainly provided credible promotional angles which has allowed us to profile ourselves with new customers,” said Wills Domain managing director Darren Haunold.

Attributing his team’s win to “hard work, a critical eye for details and constant investment in our development,” Haunold and his cohorts remain focused on continual improvement.

“It’s been a very hectic year with venue visitation well up on previous years,” he said. “We’ve also appointed a new restaurant manager, Gabrielle Ogden, and have refined the Tasting Menu offering to unrivalled compare.

“We’ve (also) rebranded our business and will be implementing this over the next six months with an exciting new look.”

Fernandez has also tweaked Voyager Estate’s offering with the launch of an experimental new dining experience entitled The Culinary Project.

Pairing five innovative dishes – that may or may not end up on the Voyager Estate restaurant menu – with wines selected and poured by sommelier Clare Tonon, this intimate concept invites 10 diners to enjoy a chef’s table experience at a private residence on the Estate.

“The guests learn details of the creative process… and we also learn from their feedback,” the South American born chef explained.

Meanwhile, back up in the big smoke, 2018 Excellence Front of House winner James Tuxworth and his lauded teams at Il Lido and Canteen continue to offer some of the best customer service in the state.

“The Top 100 is a prestigious and competitive place,” Tuxworth said. “You can’t stop, it’s like a show at the theatre; once those curtains open we are on show 100 per cent of the time.”

“From the second the guest walks through the door, we are their guides and so we better put on a good show.”

Despite being named 2018 Hospitality Operator of the Year with business partner Paul Aron, and taking home the Best Bar Dining Award for Tiny’s plus recognition for Mary Street Bakery in the Best Casual Dining Top 25, Michael Forde admits the year to date hasn’t been a cakewalk.

“It’s been a challenging time for most operators this year,” he said. “The success was in navigating it.”

And navigate it he has, deftly balancing existing commitments with the launch of Mary Street Bakery’s new City Beach location and the opening of Panama Social in Northbridge.

With the 2019 reviewing season now underway, Forde has a few choice words for chefs and operators striving for recognition in the 2019 WAGFG Top 100: “Stay true to what your story is.”

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