A sit-down with Anthea Loucas Bosha: CEO of Food and Wine Victoria
The role of CEO of Food and Wine Victoria – the overarching body responsible for the celebrated Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (MFWF) and Drink Victorian, among other events and projects – may sound like the perfect job. And, for Anthea Loucas Bosha, it is.
After forging a career leading renowned industry titles like Gourmet Traveller and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living (now Good Food), Loucas Bosha possesses an industry pedigree like few others.
Not without its challenges, such as a global pandemic, skilled worker shortages, supply chain disruptions and growing cost-of-living pressures to name a few, Loucas Bosha sat down with Southbank News to discuss her journey into the culinary world, stresses on the industry, where Melbourne, and Victoria, sits on the global gastronomic stage, and where to next for Food and Wine Vic.
“It’s a really interesting time,” she said. “There are almost two different economies working parallel to one another. On the one hand, places are struggling to keep the lights on, and on the other hand, venues are flying, and you can’t get bookings.”
“It’s very expensive to eat out now, and you must be exceptional to make it work. With increased costs and workforce shortages, some places are opting to operate with restricted hours, and within those hours [they are] in search for better yields.”
“Like for all of us, costs in hospitality are increasing. You go to the supermarket and it’s stark how expensive living is today. That’s no different for restaurants, bars, and cafes.”
With Victoria leading the nation as its biggest exporter of food, from a land mass of just three per cent of the country, Loucas Bosha said Melbourne was uniquely positioned ahead of other major culinary cities like London, New York and Hong Kong due to its accessibility to, and celebration of, world-leading fresh produce.
“We produce most of the country’s dairy, a huge chunk of its lamb … we can grow anything because of the climates and microclimates we have,” Loucas Bosha said.
“Then to layer on top of that we have incredible fresh food markets which are quite exclusive to Melbourne, and then layer on top of that the incredible cultural diversity of this city … all these things combine as to why we have so many great restaurants, bars and cafes.”
Following a resounding success from MFWF’s Regional Edition last year, its first major foray outside Melbourne, the festival is back again this November with the Yarra Valley, Ballarat and Gippsland playing leading roles.
Along with a return of Drink Victorian, a Victorian Government partnered program that forms a conduit between producers and bars, pubs, restaurants, and retailers, and Vic Grown, a program in its youth which aims to bring the agriculture sector to the fore, Loucas Bosha’s team is never short of projects to fill their plates.
“You don’t need to go to Latvia to see really interesting wine, we have it right here,” she said. “Vic Grown is only in its infancy, but we do have its official slogan: ‘Fresh from Australia’s food bowl.’ We are the food bowl of Australia, but we don’t talk about it.”
“The problem we have is Victoria is not the international brand of Victoria, Melbourne is. Internationally, Victoria is somewhere in Canada. We have Melbourne Grand Prix, Melbourne AO [Australian Open tennis] and other major events, so it’s all about Melbourne.”
“Our job is to figure out how we create that linkage, because you can’t talk about Melbourne as the Yarra Valley or Gippsland.”
Following a long stint in Sydney, Loucas Bosha returned to Melbourne in 2017, became CEO of Food and Wine Vic in 2018, weathered a global pandemic, and is now leading an industry that is undoubtedly under strain, but at the same time, so crucial for the fabric and lives of all Victorians.
“You look at how travel, events or live music have bounced back, it’s just a human reflex to what we have gone through to want to be together,” she said.
“It is the antidote to social media, being together at a gig, or a restaurant or a café. It’s the connection we all crave.”
Organisation for MFWF’s traditional Melbourne-based program, which runs from March 15 to 24, is already under way with a line-up on a scale and calibre like never before. •
For more information: melbournefoodandwine.com.au
Caption: Food and Wine Victoria CEO Anthea Loucas Bosha. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen.