Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards

Outstanding Contribution to Hospitality - Alla Wolf-Tasker

“She is the regional pioneer,\" says Dan Hunter, owner-chef of this year\'s double award-winning restaurant Brae. \"It took a lot of courage for her and Allan to do what they were doing in the first place, but the way Alla\'s gone about it, by promoting all the good things in the region, like suppliers and producers, as well as the Lake House, she\'s proved she\'s a smart operator, too.\"

It can be hard to remember, as Lake House celebrates its 30th birthday, just how ground-breaking it was for Alla Wolf-Tasker and her artist husband Allan to set up a restaurant modelled on the great regional restaurants of Europe in Daylesford, a depressed town in regional Victoria. But as it has grown from a three-day-a-week, 45-seat restaurant built on \"a swamp\" to a renowned hotel, day spa, cooking school, function centre and farmers\' market, Lake House has proved to be both template and benchmark for so many others that followed and headed out of town.

Beyond the remarkable success and influence of Lake House is Wolf-Tasker\'s staunch and vocal commitment to the trade - the championing of local producers, time spent on tourism boards giving a voice to regional concerns, the mentoring of chefs, the investment in local projects like the Daylesford Primary School Kitchen Garden project - that has made her contribution even more significant and was a big part of the reason behind her receiving a Member of the Order of Australia medal.

Chef Philippa Sibley recently paid tribute to Wolf-Tasker and a number of other women chefs in the state by including dishes dedicated to them on the Queens of Victoria menu at her Melbourne restaurant Prix Fixe. She\'s worked with Wolf-Tasker in the past and describes her as \"a person who likes to have something to fix\".

\"She\'s one of the most forthright and driven people in the industry,\" says Sibley. And she has massive Integrity because she really practises what she preaches. She\'s a nurturer of people in the industry and of the industry itself, but best of all, she\'s a person that gets things done.\"

And the lady herself? Though she claims to be \"hitting the wall more frequently these days\", it seems she\'s dreaming aplenty - be it of a regionally based tertiary training facility for the culinary arts and best practice agricultural production, or for the Daylesford area to receive regional accreditation as in Europe. Despite her claims of slowing down, there\'s still plenty to be getting on with.

\"Allan calls it the runaway Russian train,\" she says. \"He has a cartoon of it with me in the driver seat and the rest of the tribe hanging on to the windows of the carriages as it careers down the slope.” MICHAEL HARDEN


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