12 July 2024 CoTY Dinner


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Food review by James Hill

A full house of members and guests were seated comfortably in our club rooms for our Chef of the Year awards evening.

2022 Chef of the Year Bernard Leung was in the kitchen assisted by Steve Liebeskind, Paul Irwin, Romain Stamm, Foodmaster Steve Sparkes and the Royal Exchange kitchen brigade.

The evening started with champagne and canapés:

  • Salmon ceviche asian fusion (SL)
  • Beef tataki (PI)
  • Roasted pear and melted blue cheese on puff with cracked pepper (RS)

Steve Liebeskind presented an entree of confit salmon with wakame, daikon and pickled cucumber topped with crisped salmon skin. A riff on Tetsuya’s famed confit salmon this was outstanding, with all the hallmarks of a great dish; texture, flavour and presentation.

Bernard reprised his winning dish as Chef of the Year our main tonight was Moroccan grilled quail with couscous salad and Romesco sauce.

Tunnel-boned quail were marinated overnight in cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. They were then pan-fried to brown the outside, before finishing in the oven. This was served on a bed of couscous made with vegetable stock, and mixed with diced and de-seeded tomatoes, sultanas, cucumbers, chopped parsley and mint and finished with lemon juice and olive oil. The Romesco sauce tomato, capsicums, and almonds oven roasted, and then blitzed with sugar, salt and red chilli. A good heat not overwhelming.

Extra bowls of sauce were served to our tables for those who liked a little more spice.

Cheesemaster Mark Bradford selected a French cheese, a society favourite, ‘Comté’ for our cheese curse accompanied by pear and green salad.

Our Foodmaster Steve Sparkes followed with a dessert of lemon tart and homemade vanilla ice cream.

The food we enjoyed was high quality, fine dining standard, and masterfully executed.

Thanks team.

President Bill Alexiou-Hucker welcomed us, and Foodmaster Steve Sparkes was our MC introducing our finalists detailing the meal they cooked that had them selected for this coveted award.

Our finalists were Bill Alexiou-Hucker, Mark Bradford, Nigel Burton, James Hill, Matthew Holmes and Paul Irwin.

The award of Chef of the Year, voted by members, went to James Hill for his dish ‘Chicken smoked cheese and bacon rotolo’.

Matthew Holmes was awarded Seafood Chef of the Year for a dish of oven-baked pancetta-wrapped Norwegian Atlantic salmon.

The Ross MacDonald trophy for the best accompaniment to the cheese course was won by Chilly Hargrave for his dish of layered salad of rocket, beetroot, segmented blood orange topped with sliced shallot and a balsamic dressing.

The finalists were presented with an engraved Australian Brisket board made from ex-demolition recycled Australian hardwoods.

A great night was had by all showcasing the talent of our members.

22 November 2023 President's Dinner

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COTY Dinner 18 August 2023

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran


Seventy-two members and guests were seated comfortably in our club rooms for our Chef of the Year awards evening.

Our Foodmaster Steve Sparkes and 2021 Chef of the Year Nick Reynolds were in the kitchen assisted by the kitchen brigade headed by Chef Rob Doll.

The evening started with champagne and Steve’s canapés:

  • Apple, walnut and blue cheese tartlet
  • Seafood terrine on a biscuit
  • Prawn, crab, chilli and coriander in a wonton cup

Nick was up next with an entree Aubergine Bolognese. A thin slice of baked eggplant topped with bolognese sauce and a Parmesan wafer.

Reprising his winning dish our main tonight was homemade seafood sausage with béarnaise sauce, prawn, scallop, potato pave topped with crème fraîche and caviar with snow peas on the side.

Cheese master Mark Bradford provided a Will Studd selection Comte for our cheese course.

Steve presented a dessert of dark chocolate delice with blood orange sorbet.

The food we enjoyed was high quality, fine dining standard, masterfully executed. Thanks team.

President Bill Alexiou-Hucker was our MC and introduced our finalists detailing the meal they cooked that had them selected for this coveted award.

Our finalists were Mark Bradford, Bernard Leung, Steve Liebeskind, Merv Peacock, Steve Sparkes and Romain Stamm.

The award of Chef of the Year, voted by members, went to Bernard Leung for his dish ‘quail with couscous and romesco sauce’.

Steve Sparkes was awarded Seafood Chef of the Year for a dish of blue-eye trevalla with curry sauce topped with a squid ink tuille.

The Ross MacDonald trophy for the best accompaniment to the cheese course was won by Paul Thorne for his dish a warm salad of brussels sprouts, beans, lettuce, roasted almonds and sesame seeds, sautéed in butter to with Kashmiri Swiss Gruyère.

A great night was had by all showcasing the talent of our members.


One of our Society’s high spots for the year, held on Friday the 18 August.

A jam-packed room of 70 + saw members, wives and partners join in for this important event. There was much-excited chatter and speculation around the room about who would eventually be crowned King for 2022. Bernard Leung was declared the winner, with Steve Sparkes collecting the Silver medal. Sincere congratulations to these two, and to all of the other finalists. I am in awe of all of our Chefs, their dedication, skill and pure time-consuming hard work. I do not know how they do it.

Moving right along to our wines for the evening. we kicked off with the Society Bubbles Bernard Bremont Brut NV. An excellent as always glass of fizz to go down with our delicious pass-arounds. The next bracket was a pair of Italian reds, the Nerello Mascalese 2020, followed by the 2016 Pagliarese Chianti. The Mascalese hails from Sicily in the foothills of Mt Etna.14%. The Chianti was a Tuscan Sangiovese. 13%.

The Mascalese is a little-known grape out here, but very popular in Italy, producing a light bodied, but very flavoursome red wine, a bit like a very light Pinot in terms of colour and texture. I really liked it, an excellent food wine with a big mouth-filling strawberry fruit finish, but clean and in balance. A perfect wine to go with an antipasto sitting on the shores of Lake Garda. Garcon, another bottle please!

The second wine was to me a disappointment, perhaps expecting too much. The wine is now 7 yo, which is not old, but to me the wine was prematurely ageing, with acid and fruit falling off, heading for the description of getting flabby. Others of course may take a different view, but that is how I saw it.

We were then treated to three Chardonnays, a Chablis, a White Burgundy, and an Australian Chardonnay, the Leeuwin Estate Art Series. In sequence, the Chablis was a 1st Cru., 2017 Etienne Boileau at 13% rated an 8/9 year for that district. An enjoyable wine from a good year. At the expense of sounding like a wine snob, which I am, there is a huge gap between a 1st Cru, and a Grand Cru in Chablis, via the generous nature of a few rich mates over the years, I have enjoyed a few Grand Crus, steely, flinty you can taste the gravel in the soil. The wine to drink with oysters. Sadly this wine today had none of those calling cards. It was an enjoyable White Burgundy from a good year, which is hardly severe criticism.

The next wine we enjoyed was another White Burgundy, but a step up the Ladder. The Colin Morey Bourgogne from 2019, at 13%, the year rated 7/10. Terrific wine, full-bodied, but crisp with great peach/ pear flavours and clean acid on the finish. A delightful wine, elegant and in perfect balance.

We now move to the great conundrum between French v Australian wines, the contest between elegance, balance and restraint in the French, and pure intense fruit flavour in the Australian wines. There is no right or wrong answer, just a case of personal choice between the two styles.

The Leeuwin 2014 Art Series Chardonnay is a great example of this conflict tonight, and were we so fortunate to compare these world class wines. My research advises that this particular Leeuwin was rated as one of their greats, an assessment I totally agree with, what a wine! Intense overtones of peach, nectarine and grapefruit, but all in perfect harmony with a crisp acid finish. One of the best Oz Chardonnays I have tasted! Many thanks to our wine masters over the years for their selection.

With the cheese we had two state of the art Cabernets, the 2012 Leeuwin Art Series, and the 2006 Bordeaux 5th Growth Ch Du Tetre from Margaux. The Leeuwin was nearly 100% Cabernet with a small dash of Malbec, 13.5% and the French was a Cab blend, with a good proportion of Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot 13%. Year rated 7/8.

I have always regarded our great MR Cabernets as being the nearest thing we have to a top quality Bordeaux. Excellent perfumed nose. Muscular but gentle on the palate, fine tannins, wonderful fruit, cedar and toffee long finish. That I the way I see our Champion.

We now, however, are in the heavyweight division of great Cabernets, one from MR and one from Bordeaux, going toe to toe. The Du Tetre was from one of the oldest Chateau in Bordeaux dating back to the 11th century, You can imagine the Gallic sneer at being compared to a wine from a region making wine for less than 60 years! Quel horreur!

Anyway, despite the trash talk in the ring, we were in a fair dinkum contest between the Old World and the New World. I can hear Dvorak’s New World Symphony in my head as we put both of these wines under the searing heat of a one-on-one competition, with nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. In my view, the Bordeaux triumphed! That unmistakable mid-palate of a great Bordeaux was so evident, so alluring. Hard to describe, but you know it when you taste it. The wine of the evening in my assessment, followed by the Leeuwin Chardonnay.

To jolly us along with the final course, a superb blood orange sorbet + chocolate delice from Steve Sparkes, we enjoyed a wonderful Sauterne, Ch Myrat 2nd Growth from 2007 13.5%, rated 8/9 year. A blend of mainly Semillon and some Sav Blanc. Another very old Chateau, with many owners over the years. A previous owner had in fact pulled out all of the vines in 1975, and just in time to maintain classification the new owner replanted the vineyard in the late 1980s, which is what we are drinking tonight. As always with quality Sauterne, that viscous, luscious sweet taste powers thru, a marriage made in Heaven with the Dessert.

My sincere thanks to all who brought this evening together. These events do not happen by accident! A memorable evening.

CoTY Dinner 24 June 2022

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

After a two-year hiatus, we returned to the Royal Exchange Club for what many consider to be our premiere night the “Chef of the Year” awards.

Contenders for the 2021 award were Haley Epstein, James Hill, Peter Kelso, Merv Peacock, Nick Reynolds, and Steve Sparkes.

Nick Reynolds was named Chef of The Year as voted by members for his dish of homemade fish sausage served with beurre blanc with scallop, prawn, butter-glazed snow peas, forty layered potato pavé with crème fraîche and Beluga caviar. He was also awarded the Chris Alexiou award for the best seafood. Having now won both awards three times, he announced that while he will still cook lunches for our Society he will cease being a competitor for these awards.

Lynnette MacDonald joined us for the evening, she has donated a trophy in memory of our long-standing member and Cheese Master Ross MacDonald. The trophy awarded for the best accompaniment to a cheese course was won by Gary Linnane for his raisin/sultana mix that had been marinated in a 20-year-old Yalumba Museum Muscat.

A special thanks was made by our Food Master to all our members who cook during the year.

James Hill, Steve Leibeskind and Nick Reynolds were our chefs on the evening with wine presented by our Cellar master Chilly Hargrave.

Chef’s notes on food.

Canapés - James Hill

Bacon and three-cheese gougères. These we made by Lynnette MacDonald and the filling was Parmesan, Cheddar and Gruyère finished with a light dusting of bacon powder.

Sweet school prawns on rice crackers with Marie Rose sauce and lettuce.

Tartufata and goat’s curd served in pastry cups. Tartufata is a truffle and mushroom paste with a combination of black truffles, mushrooms, black olives, anchovies and extra virgin olive oil.

Entree - Steve Liebeskind

Confit salmon with herb beurre blanc, tarragon, chives, parsley, fried capers and finger lime topped with crispy salmon skin.

Main - Nick Reynolds

Duck three ways. The three components were confit duck Maryland served on a bed of puy lentils garnished with diced carrots and potatoes with a red wine and duck jelly sauce; hand-rolled duck spring roll (confit duck, carrots, green onions, enoki mushrooms and Peking duck sauce); and green salad spritzed with balsamic vinegar with a 62.5C sous-vide cooked duck egg providing the fat for the dressing. 

Cheese - Gary Linnane

Tonight’s cheese was Beaufort a cow’s milk hard cheese from France. This is a naturally rinded cheese from the European Alps traditionally made in 45kg wheels and is one of the largest cheeses is made in the world. The cheese is made from late spring or summer milk, this is when the best cheese comes from cows that have ascended into the rich mountain pastures.

The close concentrated creamy texture and nutty, slightly sweet long flavours are typical is rare cheese.

Served with the Society's favourite bread, Iggy’s sourdough.

Dessert - James Hill

Citrus tart with Cointreau-macerated blueberries and a lemon basil sherbet.

The Wine

Bernard Brémont Brut NV Champagne

Tyrrell's Wines 2005 Vat 1 Semillon

Tyrrell's Wines 2015 Vat 1 Semillon

Christian Moreau 2018 Chablis Vaillon Cuvee Guy Moreau 1er Cru

Domaine Christian Clerget 2010 Echezeaux Grand Cru

Domaine Georges Lignier et Fils 2012 Clos-Saint-Denis Grand Cru

Château La Dominique 2010 Grand Cru Classe, St-Emilion 

Houghton 2008 Gladstones Cabernet Sauvignon

Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2003 1er Cru Classe, Sauternes


The evening got off to a flying start with a Bernard Bremont Champagne from Ambonnay in the  Champagne region. A highly regarded boutique producer.  Developed colour and flavour with fine tiny bubbles. Most enjoyable. Mainly Pinot Noir.

The Tyrrells Semillons both Vat 1 2005 and 2015

Both great wines. The 05 has become a legend in its own lifetime. Regarded by Tyrrells as one of their greatest Vat 1’s. 11.6 % and drinking superbly even at 17 yo. No fading, no browning, fresh and destined for a long life. A real example of what quality Semillon can produce in terms of Lanolin and bees wax overtones.  An Australian Classic.

 The 2015 was a terrific wine, 11% and 7 yo.  Lots of time ahead and may even in time, finish up like the 05.  Suffered a little by comparison to the 05.  “ Batting after Bradman “ they used to say.

The next white wine was the well-regarded Chablis by Moreau a 1er Cru 2018. Year rated 7/9.  14%. Flint, gravel and steely overtones. Upon tasting the wine I was instantly taken back to a seaside town in France with a plate of Bay of Biscay oysters. A perfect pairing.

Red Burgundy

Christian Clerget Echezeaux Grand Cru 2010. 14%. Year rated 8/10

The first of two examples of why Pinot Noir from Burgundy is accorded almost Divine Status. The second was a Clos Saint-Denis  Grand Cru from 2012. 14%  year rated 8/9.

Both wines drank beautifully, velvety,  smooth, deep power of quality PN. Seductive aromas. At the end of the process of comparison, I came to the view by a narrow margin, that my preference was the  Clos Saint-Denis.

I felt that the Echezeaux had better structures, but the Saint-Denis had a more appealing finish. Possibly the result of a bit of fading by a  12 yo wine. Others may well hold a different view   It is however when all said and done a privilege to enjoy these wines from vineyards the size of postage stamps and prices that resemble postcodes!


We were treated to a glorious Merlot from the Right Bank, a Chateau La Dominique from St Emilion. This vineyard sits right next to the famous Cheval Blanc vineyard, so it ought to be a cracker, and it was! 86 % Merlot and a bit of Cab Franc, and an eye dropper of Cabernet. Big wine  14.5 % powerful wine, lots of time ahead, superb rich, plummy merlot flavours. Thank you Wine Master.


A superb 2008 Cabernet from Houghtons was on show.  The Gladstones MR Cabernet is right up there with their other top wine, the Jack Mann.  The wine was named after the renowned Dr John Gladstones from the WA Dept of Agriculture,  whose tireless work in the 1960s led to the establishment of grape growing in Margaret River.  This wine was impressive. Huge fruit, mint overtones, but in balance. For those who like their MR Cabernets, this wine is for you.


To finish up we were treated to a luscious 2003 La Faurie  Peyraguey. Superb. Some say this Sauterne is considered by some as being a genuine challenger to Ch D’yquem.   Tell them they’re dreaming would be my response!   Nonetheless, a great way to finish the evening with a quality stickie and a fruit tart.

Many thanks to those who put the evening together. These events do not happen by accident.   SOH.

4 to 6 September 2019 - Hunter Valley Trip

Abundant thanks to James Hill for organising this trip and the following photographs.




Presidents' Dinner 26 June 2019 at Aqua Dining

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25 May 2019 - COTY - James Hill

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6 September 2018 - Presidents' Dinner 2018

Thanks to James Hill for the photography.



4 August - Lunch at Courtney's Brasserie

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Special thanks to James Hill for this review

On a beautiful Sydney day fifteen members and guests were treated to a great lunch of fine seasonal food at Courtney's Brasserie in Parramatta.

Courtney's executive chef Paul Kuipers is well known to our Society having cooked many times in the past at the behest of society member John Goldsbrough.

Some chose to cruise up the river on a Sydney ferry with the added enjoyment of pre-made negroni cocktail provided by one enthusiastic member to get us in the mood.

It was a pleasure to be welcomed to Courtney's by Chef Paul Kuipers who organised a private room for us and members brought wine from their cellars, Some gems were spotted on the table and shared. David Gregory's famed muscat made an appearance with sufficient quantity to provide a bottle for consumption on the return journey on the rivercat.

As one member commented 'A great room, food, service and ambience' all made for a perfect day. Paul joined us after lunch Introducing his chef Jenny to talk us through the menu.

The verdict a great day and now to become an annual event!

28 July 2018 Chef of The Year 2017 Dinner

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Thanks to President Peter Kelso for the report on the dinner.

There are times when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and 2017’s Chef of the Year Dinner was one such time. We had over 60 members and guests in attendance, including the former Governor of NSW, Dame Marie Bashir, as a guest of Brian Sproule; we had some superb food from the 2016 winner, Steve Liebeskind, helped by Bill Alexiou-Hucker on canapes, John Banks pitching in on main course and Rachel Borm contributing to dessert; we had a fine cheese from James Healey and coffee of quality from Forsyth’s Coffee; and we had a terrific line-up of wines to complement the food, headed by no less than four fine burgundies, two in double magnums of 3 litres (four bottles) and two whites, all donated for the event by Ray Healey; as were six bottles of champagne by Charles (Chilly) Hargrave. And as if that weren’t enough, we had a great atmosphere of enjoyment and anticipation, culminating in the awards of Chef of the Year and winner of the Chris Alexiou Seafood Dish of the Year for 2017.

Canapes were brilliant: some braised octopus in a mascarpone sauce in pastry cases; some lovely taramasalata, served ditto; and a wonderfully rare sliver of roast beef with a delicate aioli on pumpernickel. All well complemented by a fine NV Bernard Bremont from Champagne, brisk and lively with lovely mousse.

The entrée, conceived in memory of late member Graham Fear who died at the end of 2017, was a “deconstructed seafood pie”, comprising said seafood (white fish and prawns) in a rich veloute sauce balanced by a piece of crunchy pastry to evoke the pie. Accompanying it were 2 of Ray’s wines, the 2014 Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon, delicate and still a baby, and a 2010 Montgomery’s Hill Mulberry Block reserve Chardonnay from WA, rich and golden with stone fruit characters and refreshing acidity, as well as a 2012 Dom William Fevre Les Fourchaumes 1er cru Chablis from the Society’ cellar showing typical tangy minerality but a fairly short finish.

Main course ensued and more than maintained the standard, with lamb cooked two ways (an assemblage of shredded slow-cooked shoulder and a bright pink “log” of tenderloin redolent with aromas and taste from a spell of hot smoking) served with a nicely done purple carrot on a bed of pumpkin and kumera puree with slightly crunchy snap peas and a superior jus made on meat juices and stock. Fantastic with a choice of 2009 Nuits St Georges 1er cru from Jean Grivot, a 2009 Hospices de Beaune Clos de la Roche Grand Cru from Remoissenet, both the gift of Ray Healey, and a 2002 Ch Pontet-Canet from the Society. Although the Bordeaux was probably the best match with the food, who cares with wines of this distinction, complexity and length.

James Healey selected the fromage with a soft and luscious D’Affinois Blue, served with a vinaigrette salad containing pear and walnuts, were two more wines from Ray:a 2015 Romanee Les Barreaux from Cheron and a 2009 Clos de Vouguet Grand Cru from Drouhin-Laroze. Once again, beautiful examples of the grace and structure that is good burgundy, outclassing a 2008 Ornellaia Le Serre Nouveau, a Bordeaux-blend of grapes from Tuscany, Italy.

At this point, 2017 Foodmaster from 2017, Nick Reynolds took over to announce the awards, with trophies graciously presented by Dame Marie Bashir. Amid rolling drums, the awards were:

Runner-up for Chef of the Year: Steve Liebeskind

Winner of the 2017 Chef of the Year and also the Chris Alexiou Seafood Dish Trophy: James Hill

Finalists: Bill Alexiou-Hucker, Nigel Burton and David Madson.

The good things kept coming, with a sweet and sticky pecan tart served with baked pear, mascarpone and syrup which exploded in the mouth. As did a 1997 Ch Doisy- Vedrines from Barsac, unctuous but still fresh.

The evening finished with a good PNG coffee from Forsyth’s and a Bullers tawny port, a great example of the riches of Rutherglen and a fitting way to top off a memorable event.