BATHURST RSL Club is enjoying the taste of success after winning a Clubs NSW food award.
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The Bathurst RSL was named the Your Local Club Perfect Plate regional winner for the Central West at an awards ceremony held in Sydney.
The local club's pork belly and prawn wonton salad finished ahead of Orange Ex-Services' Club's Texan chopped brisket burger.
"We've wanted to enter into one of the Clubs NSW competitions for years because it's a really competitive industry and some of the food that's coming out of clubs now is really first-rate," Bathurst RSL Club CEO Peter Sargent said.
Head chef George McFarland prepared the dish, Mr Sargent said, and the award was judged on sales and voting.
"The voting process was quite stringent," Mr Sargent said. "You had to enter your details and email and a mobile phone number in order for it to be legitimate.
"So, when we sold them, we asked people to consider voting and putting in their thoughts; it was basically judged by our members and our customers and the votes that we received."
There was plenty of competition in the Perfect Plate awards: more than 160 club eateries from 142 clubs across NSW participated and there were more than 48,000 Perfect Plate dishes bought by diners.
"For us to be in that company is pretty amazing," Mr Sargent said.
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He said food in clubs is changing and has been for some time.
"I think expectations from people, in terms of club food offerings, have gone up.
"But the club industry, I think, is really leading the charge in terms of the types of culinary offerings, particularly when you go to bigger clubs.
"But even for us, even though we're comparatively a small bistro compared to some of our bigger club competitors, we're still punching out high-level chef suggestions every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, every weekend, to offer next-level food.
"For instance, we're now doing dry aged [for 30 days] beef, which is something that you wouldn't ordinarily have got in an RSL club bistro.
"We're doing those higher end meals and this meal [the pork belly and prawn wonton salad] is a really good example."
Mr Sargent said the Perfect Plate meal had to be available all the time, so that meant various kitchen staff members had to know how to do it.
"It was a training and development opportunity and a challenge," he said.
"And I think what we've seen is that our chefs, particularly, love a challenge. They take great pride in coming up with something that is new and exciting and interesting.
"The key thing about the bistro is that we're not just an RSL club bistro.
"We've got the roasts and the schnitzels, but we've also got these higher-end meals.
"We're trying to really cover the field and demonstrate that we've got real capability."
Mr Sargent said staffing challenges at the Bathurst RSL Club - mirrored in the broader hospitality industry - made the Perfect Plate win even more impressive.
"I said it at the awards and I've said it heaps of times: the club is the heart of the community and the kitchen is the heart of the club.
"And that little beating heart is really pounding."
BATHURST RSL Club's pork belly and prawn wonton salad is twice cooked pork belly and prawns, served with crispy wonton skins, pickled vegetables and Asian greens with a honey sesame dressing.
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