11 August 2023

Stepping up to plate: Illawarra clubs dominate state food competition

| Keeli Royle
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a Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Cauliflower Puree, Crispy Jerusalem Artichoke, Asparagus, Jus & Salsa Verde.

Kiama Leagues Club’s slow-cooked lamb shoulder with cauliflower puree, crispy Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, jus and salsa verde scored two awards at the Perfect Plate awards. Photo: Supplied.

Illawarra clubs have cleaned up at The Perfect Plate competition, with two local venues being awarded the state’s top honours for their fine dining dishes.

Kiama Leagues Club claimed two awards on the night, which were voted on by the public, coming home with the best dish in the region and the best from a medium sized club.

The restaurant’s head chef Sarah Rebbeck said they had received a lot of positive feedback about their entry, which was a slow-cooked lamb shoulder with cauliflower puree, crispy jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, jus and salsa verde, but the award was still a complete shock.

“The win was very unexpected,” she said. “I had been hoping to make the top three for regional awards.”

Sarah said that she wanted to create something a bit different to what you would expect in a club.

“We wanted to choose a dish that a lot of people would like and slow-cooked lamb shoulder has always been very popular, so we created a dish that has lots of flavour, was fresh and not a classic club meal,” she said. “Clubs have come along way from your typical club classics.”

Courtney Roulston and Sarah Rebbeck

Perfect Plate ambassador Courtney Roulston tastes Kiama Leagues Club’s Sarah Rebbeck’s award-winning dish. Photo: Supplied.

But the wins kept coming for the Illawarra.

Towradgi Park Bowls and Recreation Club were ecstatic as they walked away with the best small club award.

The venue’s general manager Nick Hardy said they were determined to outdo themselves after narrowly missing out last year.

“We were a bit disappointed last year when we went up to the awards night,” he said. “They called us and said you guys should come so we thought we might have won a big prize so when we didn’t win we were a bit disappointed and Chef was really determined to win it this year.”

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Head chef Prasanga Karunaratne came up with red wine braised beef short ribs and said the quality ingredients helped to get them over the line.

“Because of the weather and winter I was thinking we have to do something slow cooked,” he said. “And of course our products are all from scratch with fresh ingredients from local suppliers so that’s the reason we’re getting more popular.

“Ever since Chef’s been here, whenever he puts his mind to something like a special dish or anything he wants to put on the menu it always looks amazing and it always tastes great, so we were pretty confident,” Nick said.

But because this competition relies on ratings from everyday customers, it’s not just the dish that needs to be up to scratch, but every single serving, regardless of how busy the restaurant is.

“From my side it’s quite hard because people need to be able to afford it and we need to do it in a high volume and there needs to be consistency,” Prasanga said.

“That’s the challenge because all the details have to be perfect, and my team, whether I’m here or not, have to do it exactly the same with the same flavour.”

And all that effort paid off when Prasanga and the club’s assistant manager Ash were at the ceremony.

“When they called the winner for the state for small clubs, they were all eating their meal,” Nick said. “And because no-one knows how to say Towradgi the people on the microphone were like ‘T-ta-ta … I don’t know how to say this’, and then Ash stood up and said ‘It’s Towradgi!’ and they said, ‘That’s it – you guys have won’.”

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Nick said it was a good boost for the club after a couple of tough years getting people back into hospitality venues.

“This time of

Head chef Prasanga Karunaratne from Towradgi Park Bowling and Recreation club with award winning dish beef short ribs braised in red wine.

Towradgi Park Bowling and Recreation club Head chef Prasanga Karunaratne with award winning dish. Photo: Supplied.

the year as well is usually pretty quiet, so on the back of our award-winning dish hopefully we get a lot of people through the doors and they keep coming back.”

The winning dishes are back on offer at each of the clubs.

For more information or to book visit the Towradgi Parks Bowls and Recreation Club or Kiama Leagues Club websites.

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