A Melbourne Cup Lunch

It’s known as ‘the race that stops the nation’.  In Victoria where the Melbourne Cup is held, it’s an official public holiday and across the nation, this is the one race where even those who wouldn’t know which way up to hold a form guide, will place a bet.

While it’s not a public holiday in NSW, that doesn’t mean the race is ignored.  Almost all businesses include some sort of a Melbourne Cup event, even if it’s just wheeling in a TV to watch the 3pm race.

Decorating the room for race day

Decorating the room for race day

At Drew’s office there’s an annual Melbourne Cup Lunch that’s cooked exclusively (because he doesn’t allow help), by one of the directors, and there’s TVs and sweepstakes.  And this year I wasn’t left off the invite list.

The room had been reconfigured and decorated by the receptionist and the cook was in the tiny kitchen getting ready to prepare a sit-down lunch for 18.  Very definitely the office has a kitchen that creates massive challenges for anyone trying to cook for that many people.

Giving the kitchen a good workout

Giving the kitchen a good workout

The lunch was a little like a trip around the world with a lot of cuisines represented.  After a glass of champagne we sat down to falafels with French onion dip.  A Lebanese starter with a touch of France.

Falafel with French onion dip

Falafel with French onion dip

Then we had pork dumplings with a lovely dipping sauce.  This was a touch of China.

Pork dumplings

Pork dumplings

Next there was a seafood salad that looked very pretty on the plate and was certainly very popular with not a scrap leftover.  I’d call this an American salad.

Seafood salad

Seafood salad

Then we had a multi-coloured quinoa salad with chorizo, gherkins and haloumi.  I’d call this an Italian dish with a touch of Greece.

Quinoa and haloumi salad

Quinoa and haloumi salad

The next course was a stir-fry dish of chicken thigh fillets with potatoes, cauliflower, shallots and chillies with pearl couscous.  I’d call this a touch of Thailand.

Chicken stir-fry

Chicken stir-fry

The highlight of the meal was very definitely the extremely tender and very juicy lamb cutlets that had been pan-fried for three minutes on each side and sprinkled with a very fine dusting of salt and pepper.  This was a blend of Aussie and Chinese cuisines.  I think everyone agreed that the lamb cutlets were the highlight of the meal.

Salt and pepper lamb cutlets

Salt and pepper lamb cutlets

The cook was off-duty for dessert.  One of the partner’s wives brought in a lemon meringue pie she’d made.  I’d call this a touch of New Zealand if the Americans don’t mind.

Lemon meringue pie

Lemon meringue pie

And one of the staff brought in a ricotta cheesecake that had been flown in from Italy that morning.  It’s called a Torta Ricotta e Pere and has a ground hazelnut base, a layer of diced pears, then a ricotta and cream filling.  It was a sensational cheesecake that was very light in texture and sugar.

An Italian cheesecake

An Italian cheesecake

And while the lunch was sensational and enormous credit to the cook who produced all these dishes in a space no bigger than a closet, the actual highlight of the day was very definitely the race.  And I wouldn’t normally say that because I’m not a regular down at the track but this race was very different.

While in the past few years the race has been over-run with foreign horses, this year a Kiwi-born horse named Prince of Penzance entered the race with an unknown female jockey, Michelle Payne.  The race had never before been won by a female jockey.  The strapper for ‘Prince of Penzance’ was Michelle’s brother, Stevie, who has down syndrome.

Michelle Payne

Michelle Payne

The night before the race Michelle dreamt she won the Melbourne Cup.  On the morning of the race, Stevie had to draw out the gate number for his sister’s horse.  He drew Gate Number One and he and his sister grew in confidence.  But not the public.  The odds of ‘Prince of Penzance’ winning the Melbourne Cup were a hundred to one.

Stevie Payne

Stevie Payne

With 300mtrs to go, Michelle said Prince just took off and he blazed ahead of the pack and took out the Melbourne Cup.  A New Zealand born horse that was trained in an unknown town near Ballarat in Victoria, with owners who trusted a female jockey, on a horse that didn’t even come close to being in the Top 10 of horses with a chance of winning, took out the Melbourne Cup with odds of a hundred to one.

The Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup

And then all eyes were on the jockey.  Everyone wanted to know who she was.  Michelle is the 10th child born to Paddy Payne and his wife.  When Michelle was six months old her mother was killed in a car accident leaving Paddy to raise the 10 children on his own.   Her father was a horse trainer and while he instilled in the children a good work ethic, he didn’t actually want any of them to become jockeys.  But four of them did and in 2007 Paddy’s daughter, Brigid, died from the result of a fall from a horse.  In 2013 Michelle suffered a fall where she had a fractured skull and bruising on the brain and wondered if she should give up the sport.  She decided to stay in the sport for a further two years and I bet she’s glad she did.

Flemington, Victoria

Flemington, Victoria

Just days after the event, Michelle is the new darling of female sports stars in Australia.  There is so much to love about this story; from her humble beginnings, growing up without a mother, becoming a jockey in a sport dominated by men, suffering an accident that nearly ended her career, the loss of her sister, fighting for the chance to ride in the Melbourne Cup when no female had ever won before, winning the race on a horse with odds 100/1 and then in her media interviews giving credit to her down syndrome brother.  It’s a story that reads like a movie script and I’m quite sure we’re going to see and hear a lot more of Michelle Payne in the years ahead.

You can read more about the Michelle Payne story and her incredible win, here.

Prince of Penzance

Prince of Penzance

And did I bet?  Well I bought three tickets in the staff sweepstake and one of them came in third.  In total I gambled $6.00 and won back $8.00.

All in all, not a bad Tuesday.

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Comments

  1. I’ve only been to a horse race once, a harness race … I didn’t bet anything. 🙂 Great meal.

  2. I didn’t watch the race, Charlie, but was delighted that a young woman won!

  3. It was a great day and I bet there will be a good follow up story or two regarding Michelle and her family. Good to see some Sydney folk embracing the day.

  4. Love the pork dumplings!!! Loots like you had a great day

  5. What a happy ending for a very hard working girl! They say dreams can really do a lot or maybe it is our way of visualizing the ending…loads of great food too. HK, every Wednesday night has horse races. It is really big here…

  6. Looks like you had lots of interesting food to eat. The Cup passed us by this year – too much else going on around the same time. But glad you are able to enlighten me about Michelle Payne – her story is fascinating – wonder if anyone has dibs on a film about her life story yet 🙂

  7. Sweet Posy Dreams says:

    Nice story about the jockey. The lunch looked fabulous. So much food, and so cosmopolitan. Not sure I’d have had enough room for dessert, but who could resist cheesecake flown in from Italy?

  8. What an incredible story about Michelle. And what an incredible meal in that tiny office space.

  9. The lunch looks like an international restaurant-with a bit of everything from every country represented! That is quite a big task cooking all of that in a small kitchen!

  10. What a wonderful story Charlie, it almost brought me to tears. Looks like quite a feast you all had, how amazing!

  11. This is such a great story… I wish her all the best, she is indeed a courageous girl. Liked all the food , I cannot imagine how he managed to cook all these goodies in such a small kitchen!! Brilliant.

  12. What a thrilling race! Love that the underdog won. And the lunch looks amazing!!! Lucky you to be on the guest list 🙂

  13. Wow , he must just love cooking for that lunch. So many dishes too. Its a great story isn’t it. I got a guy down at the TAB to fill out my form. Two horses for a place one of them being Prince,. when I paid he didn’t ask for as much as I thought he was going to and I realized the guy who helped left off my Prince pick. I didn’t worry too much about it till he damn well won! .

  14. Oh wow, all that wonderful food! Fabulous.
    Whilst I appreciate and admire Michelle’s story, I do not like horse racing or anything where an animal is made to work.
    Have a wonderful weekend Charlie.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  15. Your meal looks fabulous and very filling! I love the Melbourne Cup story!!! As a kid I was obsessed with our Kentucky Derby. I read about the jockeys, the horses, made scrapbooks of the race. My favorite movie was National Velvet about a female jockey. This story takes me back and makes the kid in me very excited for all involved. Love it! I don’t follow horse racing much anymore, but I still watch the Derby every year. This sounds like a race that I would have loved. 🙂

  16. What a fantastic lunch! Congrats to the chef for preparing all those dishes in a small kitchen for so many people.
    Great story. Congrats to Michelle, what a great role model for kids.

  17. Michelle Payne was interviewed on BBC radio 4 after the win. It made a sensational story here too. GG

  18. What an incredible meal cooked in a closet! I was thrilled watching Michelle and Stevie. When she told people who didn’t think women should be jockeys to ‘get stuffed’ I loved it!

  19. I am intrigued that the Melbourne Cup is so highly celebrated that it warrants a holiday in Victoria. I really love anything that brings people together in this way. What a unique meal, as well! I think everything about this celebration is quite special. And I’m so glad you came out on top in your wager. Woo-hoo! You’re up $2.00! 🙂

  20. Was amazing to see a female win, I won nothing lol. Oh well always another year, bet Michelle will be a favourite next year at the bookies, and some people would have got a nice return on their money this year. 🙂

  21. What a fun day and amazing story!! And that seafood salad looks incredible 🙂

  22. Aww – what a wonderful and heart wrenching story about Michelle! So glad she hung it out inspite of her fall! And that was one heck of an International meal!
    xx

  23. I love these posts with cultural insights. Always interesting! As for the food…wow! I laughed that the dish that truly made me drool was the seafood you called “American.” I always figure that after over 40 years out of the US, I barely count as an American voice (voting and paying taxes notwithstanding). Lovely meal–and I am sure was a good time.

  24. What an exciting race story and the luncheon food looks and sounds fabulous!

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