By Gabi Mills. Images by Elements of Margaret River.
  • First among equals

    First among equals


Top chef Tony Howell and his team turned on the glitz for the launch of the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association - a first for his new catering group, MRHG.

Willy Bay Resort in Margaret River was the place to be at the end of June, as it played host to an important launch for the region’s tourism future.

Feeding all the VIP guests who turned up to toast the newly named Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association (MRBTA) was left in the capable hands of one of the area’s top chefs, now heading up the Margaret River Hospitality Group (MRHG).  

It was an important first assignment for MRHG’s executive chef Tony Howell, and especially close to the heart of the talented cook who has made the south west his home.

The MRBTA launch celebrated the unification of the Geographe Bay and Augusta Margaret River tourism associations, as agreed by an overwhelmingly positive vote by association members.

MRHG director Anthony Janssen said that he felt privileged to play an official part int the celebrations.

“Congratulations to the Augusta Margaret River and Geographe Bay Tourism Associations for having the vision to unite our region,” said Anthony.

“Forming one tourism association will not only create consistencies and business efficiencies, but it will continue to build and strengthen tourism in the South West.”

Anthony said that he and Tony and hospitality expert Alex Brooks, shared the same vision for their south west enterprises - to create memorable hospitality experiences for locals and visitors alike.

“We all love the region and we’re really proud of it. We express that love and pride in what we do at all our venues,” Anthony said.

“Creating a sustainable business is one thing, but it’s not the only thing. 

“We’re committed to contributing positively to the region by providing our staff with career opportunities and a great place to work, by giving locals and visitors great venues that they feel at home at, and by showcasing the amazing produce of the region.”

Tony, who boasts many awards, said that the region’s produce was a key factor in his decision to settle in Margaret River some 20 years ago.

“I first came to down south to help a mate out for a couple of weeks in the kitchen at Brookland Estate -- 20 years later and I’m still here and loving it. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.” 

“I’m honoured to have been asked to cater for the MRBTA launch -- it’s such an important occasion for our region and a terrific move for the future of tourism.”

Tony’s no stranger to catering for tourism royalty - - he’s cooked for superstars including Heston Blumenthal, Alex Atala and musician Sting.

“I’m excited about the menu we put together and the unbelievable produce we served - ocean-grown abalone from Augusta, pork and lamb from McHenry Hohnen, Leeuwin grass-fed beef, prawns from 34 Degrees Blue, fresh ricotta from Organic Creameries, and Temper Temper chocolate,”  Tony said.

Gelato Buonissimo served scoops of gelato from an ice cream cart at the event that drew over 250 locals and media guests to beautiful Willy Bay Resort's lakeside reception centre

In addition, MRHG also announced a new venue - The Common, located in the Margarets Beach Resort complex in Gnarabup, on the coast of the Margaret River region.

Locally-brewed craft beer and great food with a seafood slant will feature at The Common.  

Anthony, who owned Gnarabar on the same site three years ago, said that he’s been working on The Common’s new $300,000 fit-out, making much of the furniture himself from local timbers.

 “We’ve built a new al fresco deck that has ocean views and an awning made from recycled timber, a private function room, put in a new ceiling, new lighting, new American oak floorboards and created another outdoor area - it looks fantastic,” Anthony said.

 “The Common will have a craft beer focus – the heroes being the local brews in our beer fonts, and we’ll also offer other Australian and international beer. We’ll also have a small but interesting list of wines by the glass and bottle," he said.

 “The Common is ultimately a place for locals to eat, drink and hang out, that welcomes families and visitors alike." 


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Fast facts
  • Margaret River Hospitality Group owns and operates Morries, Gnarabar (under refurbishment launching as The Common), White Elephant Beach Café, Barefoot Beach Weddings and has a new venue in development in Dunsborough. Partners of the Margaret River Hospitality Group are entrepreneur Anthony Janssen, hospitality expert Alex Brooks and award-winning chef Tony Howell.