Hospitality legends join hall of fame

5th August 2020 | Eativity editors

Melbourne Food & Wine Festival has announced the winners of one of the nation’s longest-standing awards for lifetime achievement in hospitality. Established in 1993, the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival Legends program recognises the contributions made by key figures across the spectrum of food and drink.

This year eight local identities were inducted into the Legends Hall of Fame, joining the greatest leaders, ground-breakers and visionaries of Victoria’s food and drink scene. Joining this prestigious group of industry stars, the 2020 inductees include the following legends.

Local heroes: Sisto Malaspina & Nino Pangrazio, Pellegrini’s 

The retirement of Nino Pangrazio (pictured at top) from Pellegrini’s in late 2019, nearly a year to the week of the tragic death of his fellow co-owner Sisto Malaspina (pictured above with widow Vicki Malaspina), marked the end of an era for the Bourke Street landmark and for Melbourne’s cafe culture. The pair had worked together at Pellegrini’s since 1974, when they bought the business from Leo and Vildo Pellegrini, the migrant brothers who founded it in 1954. Over that time they set a standard for kindness and welcome, and for consistency and commitment that has been recognised as a benchmark in the community.

Food producer/retailer/advocate: Gary McBean, Gary’s Quality Meats

In Gary McBean you find the culmination of three generations of butchery. He first picked up the knife in 1970, opened his own business at Prahran Market in 1984, and today enjoys the loyalty of a legion of customers. They’re drawn to Gary’s Quality Meats for its mix of personal service and professional polish, for its ethical sourcing of animals and careful use of whole beasts, for its community spirit, and of course for the pure quality of the craft on show. And in mentoring his daughter, McBean is ensuring all that experience, skill, passion and integrity is passed onto a fifth generation of butchers in the family.

Communicator/educator: Cam Smith, 3RRR

Cam Smith’s Eat It program has graced Melbourne’s airwaves since 1987, making it the longest-running show of its kind in Australia. Over those years Smith has shared the stories of the good and the great of hospitality from across the spectrum of the trade, giving airtime to dishwashers and winemakers, gin and jaffles, cookbooks and country pubs. Tuning in for the hour on 3RRR FM at noon on Sundays, you’re as apt to catch Massimo Bottura as you are John, the Queen Vic Market stallholder, sharing his secrets to stuffing. And, all the more remarkably, Smith has done all this work over the years as a volunteer.

Hostplus Trailblazer: Loretta Bolotin, Free to Feed

Free to Feed, which Loretta Bolotin founded with her husband Daniel, is a social enterprise which creates job opportunities for refugees and seekers of asylum through cooking classes, catering and private events. It provides recent arrivals to Victoria with that all-important foot in the door through a 12-month employment program, showing them the ropes in a commercial kitchen, building connections in the community and giving them an Australian reference to bolster their CV. And it enriches Melbourne with brilliant food experiences.“It’s about kindness, caring, welcome and looking after people,” says Bolotin. In other words, hospitality at its most essential. 

Drink retailer/advocate – Jessica and Paul Ghaie, Blackhearts and Sparrows

You may not know their names, but if you buy wine or beer in Victoria, you’ll certainly be familiar with the brand. With Blackhearts and Sparrows, siblings Paul and Jessica Ghaie have transformed bottle shops as we know them in Australia, creating a community of stores that stretches from Melbourne to outposts in Hobart and Canberra. Since 2006 they’ve championed the small, the local and the diverse and been leaders in supporting producers of organic, biodynamic, lo-fi, vegan, low- and no-alcohol drinks.

The 2020 Legends inductees join more than 150 leaders from the food, drink and hospitality trade. The program recognises an individual’s contribution to the industry and celebrates their role in shaping, sustaining and celebrating Victoria’s international reputation as a centre of food, drink and hospitality excellence.

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