1984 First Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide

Leo Schofield edited the first Sydney Good Food Guide

The first Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, edited by Leo Schofield, David Dale and Jenna Price, began with The Abbey in Glebe and ended with Zorba the Buddha in Darlinghurst. It included a vegetarian restaurant run by the Rajneeshis, or Orange People, where, so the Guide stated, “the staff are also very nice to children”. The only two restaurants to earn three hats were Berowra Waters Inn and Peter Doyle’s Reflections.

Sydney was four years behind Melbourne in getting its own Guide, although the newspaper had included a food section in its Good Living supplement since 1982. Leo Schofield, who wrote the cover story for the first Good Living piece went on to edit the Good Food Guide until 1993.

Schofield was an ex-advertising man whose first foray into food writing was in 1971 when he wrote a piece about Melbourne’s Florentino restaurant for The Sunday Australian.  He wrote food columns for The Australian and the Telegraph for the following six years. During that time, he also compiled four editions of what was effectively The Good Food Guide‘s predecessor, Eating Out in Sydney.

Schofield was known for his acerbic comments when restaurants did not come up to scratch. In one review he described an establishment’s seafood rolls as “Deep fried homogenised seafood puree cut into thin strips like ovals of rubber bathing cap”. The braised squid that followed, he said, tasted “like the remaining bits of bathing cap after the ovals had been cut from it.” It was, perhaps, not surprising that he had death threats, with another restaurant owner threatening that if he ever reviewed them he would end up in the gutter with an ice-pick between his shoulder blades.

The first Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide sold 35,000 copies. In a 1985 interview, Schofield said he had a team of 12 people visiting 250 restaurants for the second edition. Initially focussing on Sydney, the Guide later expanded its content to include New South Wales regional restaurants. Individual state guides combined to became a national publication in 2017.

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