Stephanie Alexander is a well-known former restaurateur, food writer and champion of the quality and diversity of Australian food.
Stephanie was the owner-chef of the award-winning Stephanie’s Restaurant in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn from 1976 to 1997. A champion of the small producer, she established a new understanding of personal style in her restaurant and went on to write a number of books including the well-known and best selling The Cook’s Companion. Her thirteenth book The Kitchen Garden Companion was published in late 2009, reflecting her interest in promoting the importance of fresh, seasonal food in our lives.
Stephanie has always believed that despite the surface attention given to “fancy food” and restaurants, we are raising children and young adults with little understanding of where food comes from and how to include fresh food in their daily lives. She believes that the earlier children learn about delicious fresh food through example and positive experiences, the better their food choices will be through life. This preoccupation led her to establish the not-for-profit Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation in 2004, dedicated to deliver pleasurable food education to as many Australian primary school students as possible.
Stephanie’s mix of practical skills, creative ability, and relentless energy has driven the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation forward from its Victorian beginnings to what is now a national program. The program is supported by both the Victorian government, the Australian government and a mix of philanthropic, corporate and community bodies.
Stephanie was awarded an Order of Australia in 1994 for her services to the hospitality industry and to tourism, and for encouraging young apprentices.
Born in Poole in the UK, Lovaine's first job choice as a child was that of an American Mack Truck Driver. As a child living in Saudi, she experienced an eclectic way of life - cuisine included tasting her first sheep's eyeball at six.
Back in England, Lovaine worked in various local pubs before working front of house at the Michelin Three Star Michel Bras in Laguiole. When she returned to the UK, she met Heston Blumenthal and was a position as his Assistant Sommelier.
After 18 months, Lovaine left Blumenthal to become a chef. She worked her way up at the Castle Hotel in Taunton for three years, until former colleague Adam Humphrey asked her to help him open his Restaurant Arras in Australia in 2004. After a stint at another Australian restaurant, she and Humphrey opened their restaurant in 2007.
Lovaine is entrenched in the Arras kitchens daily, working closely with Adam on developing new dishes and techniques. Always one to push the envelope, Lovaine works hard at keeping the original ethos of the restaurant of whimsical, humourous and bold cooking. Lovaine actively partakes in all facets of the business, using her vast knowledge to take Arras towards its potential.
Before she became immersed in the world of food, Maggie travelled the world and worked in an amazing variety of jobs, from a lift driver in a New Zealand department store to the assistant to the Senior Geophysicist for British Petroleum in Libya.
Her marriage to Colin led them to the Barossa Valley in 1973, where they began pheasant breeding and grape growing. The establishment of the Pheasant Farm was the start of a career that now spans farming, food production, exporting, food writing and television presenting. Since she shot to fame, Maggie has won awards such as the Telstra Business Woman of the Year and the Pheasant Farm eaterie has been named Australian Gourmet Traveller ‘Restaurant of the Year’.
She has written several books, such as Maggie’s Orchard and Cooking with Verjuice and also collaborated with Stephanie Alexander on their Tuscan Cookbook. Maggie hosted The Cook and The Chef alongside Simon Bryant, winning the Sizzler Bernard King Award for ‘Best Television Food Segment’. She has also released a range of gourmet products such as pheasant pate, quince paste and verjuice.
On Australia Day 2010, Maggie was honoured with winning ‘Senior Australian of the Year’, in recognition of her focus on cooking with seasonal produce that has in turn helped to educate so many Australians to make informed food choices. The award was presented to Maggie by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at a special ceremony in Canberra.
Shannon Bennett’s restaurant Vue de monde in Melbourne is testament to the belief that restaurant food can be a wondrous, unforgettable experience. Without compromise, in his principles or ingredients, Shannon has fashioned his own innovative way of cooking, matching the efforts of acknowledged masters worldwide.
Vue de monde was awarded Restaurant of the Year, three hats and an unprecedented 19/20 in the Age Good Food Guide 2007, later winning three stars for the Australian Gourmet Traveller awards, as well as ‘Restaurant of the Year’.
Shannon's philosophy at Vue de monde is to provide a dining experience which is theatrical and cannot be replicated in the home environment. Shannon achieves this through his dedication to the dining experience as a whole; from the sourcing of rare ingredients, to his uncompromising approach to classical technique and his commitment to the very best of restaurant service including crockery, cutlery and glassware.
In 2008, Shannon opened Vue by Shannon Bennett in Muscat, before launching two further Cafe Vue venues in Melbourne.
Also an accomplished author, Shannon’s first two books My Vue and My French Vue are both in their second editions and Shannon Bennett’s Paris (Shannon’s personal guide to his favourite city) was released in December 2009.
Mark Best started his working life as an electrician in the gold mines of Western Australia before starting his culinary career at the age of 25. He commenced an apprenticeship at the Macleay Street Bistro at Potts Point in 1990, which proved to be the beginning of his passion for French food.
In the fourth year of his apprenticeship, Mark was awarded the Josephine Pignolet Award for ‘Best Up and Coming Chef’ in NSW. In 1995, he opened his own restaurant Peninsula Bistro in Balmain, which soon developed a strong local following and rave critical acclaim.
During this time, Mark decided to further his study of French Cuisine in France and worked at L’Arpége in Paris, Alain Passard’s three Michelin Star 'Gastro Temple’. He followed this with a stint at Raymond Blanc’s, Le Manoir Aux Quatre Saisons in the UK. His time overseas fuelled his desire to open his next restaurant, Marque.
Marque Restaurant is a distillation of his hard work, experience and dedication. Five months after opening, it was awarded Two Hats in the 2000 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.
Marque has been described by the media as “a brilliant combination of brains and beauty”, while Mark has been dubbed “extraordinary”.
Heston fell in love with cooking in 1982, when he and his family went to a three-star restaurants beneath the cliffs in Provence. By day, he worked in a variety of jobs (photocopier salesman, debt collector, credit controller), while at night he taught himself French cuisine, perfecting his culinary techniques.
Every summer, Heston travelled around France, learning about every aspect of gastronomy. After four years of reading, cooking and researching, he bought the book On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, which ignited his curiosity in a scientific approach to cooking. From then onwards, Heston learnt to bend, break and ignore many rules of the kitchen.
In 1995, Heston bought a 450-year-old pub in Bray. Small, with an impossibly cramped kitchen, only one door, no view, an outside toilet and a reputation as the hotspot for every drinker banned from other pubs in the area, it was hardly the ideal choice for a restaurant, but it was all he could afford. The Fat Duck opened as a simple bistro serving french classics. Despite Heston working 20-hour days, the restaurant started to get good reviews.
He soon met university physicist Dr Peter Barham and Professor Tony Blake, who kick-started a network of scientists influencing Heston and his creations at The Fat Duck. Eventually, The Fat Duck received three Michelin star and Heston’s fate as a leading gastronomic chef was sealed.
Since then, The Fat Duck has been further refurbished and Heston continues to explore how the brain influences people’s appreciation of food, enhancing the eating experience with smells to generate emotion or headphones to introduce the dimension of sound.
Heston has also explored the history of British gastronomy, creating traditional dishes such as Mock Turtle Soup and Beef Royal, once served at King James II’s coronation in 1685.
Martin Blunos is one of the country’s greatest chefs. Having held two Michelin stars for more than 15 years, this blond haired, walrus-moustached Baltic giant of a man has a wicked sense of humour and is a most colourful character.
Martin was brought up near Bath in England and was influenced by his mother’s wholesome Russian cooking. After attending college in Cheltenham, he worked at the Strand Palace Hotel in London before kitchen jobs in Switzerland, on a Greek tycoon’s yacht and finally at Lampwick’s in London.
Martin has made regular TV appearances on shows such as Iron Chef UK, BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, Daily Cooks, Food Uncut, Market Kitchen and MasterChef Goes Large.
He is also well-known for his public appearances and has taken part in the BBC Good Food Show and been a spokesperson at the Gourmet Food Festivals in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Martin was chosen to cook for Her Majesty the Queen during her Jubilee year and met Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Foreign and Commonwealth Institute to celebrate Latvia joining the EU.
Martin lives in Bath with his wife Sian (also a trained chef and food writer) and they have sons Leon and Max and daughter Coco.
Tony Bilson, the ‘Godfather of Australian Cuisine’, has dedicated his life to the pursuit of excellence in gastronomy. He has been recognised as one of Australia’s leading chefs for over 40 years and his restaurants have been milestones in the advance of Australian gastronomy. They include Tony’s Bon Gout, Berowra Waters Inn, Kinselas, Bilson’s at Circular Quay, Fine Bouche, Treasury at Sydney’s Inter-Continental Hotel, Ampersand, Canard, Bilson’s Restaurant at the Radisson Plaza Hotel and Number One Wine Bar.
Tony opened Bilson’s Restaurant in 2003. It was awarded Three Hat status and he was inducted into the Restaurant & Catering Hall of Fame for his contribution to the industry.
He has promoted Australian food and wine overseas, working as guest chef in some of the world’s most prestigious hotels. He has also published various books, such as Fine Family Cooking, and Tony Bilson’s Recipe Book and is a regular contributor to various magazines and newspapers. Regarding wine as an essential element in Australian gastronomy, Tony has been active in the development of different wine styles with some of Australia’s major winemakers.
In the late nineties, Tony conceived a state of the art production kitchen, The Commissary Kitchen, initiated its finance and design and garnered a team of 3-Star French chefs to take food production to a level of quality not seen before in Australia and equalling the highest international standards.
In September 2008m Tony opened Number One Wine Bar at Circular Quay. Situated at No 1 Alfred Street, it is a unique venue that adds a new dimension to his portfolio.
Guillaume Brahimi was born in Paris and his passion for cooking began at an early age. After a two-year apprenticeship at Aux Charpentiers, he landed a position as Commis at three-star Michelin restaurant La Tour D’Argent, where he stayed for over three years.
In 1986, Guillaume joined the kitchen of Joel Robuchon at the well known three-Star Michelin restaurant, Jamin in Paris. During his four years with Robuchon, he progressed from Chef de Partie to Sous Chef and was ready to accept his next challenge – a move to Australia.
After investigating the restaurant market in Australia, Guillaume opened a small restaurant in Sydney called Pond. Within only six months of opening, Pond earned a record breaking Two Chef Hats and a 16/20 rating. He then worked at Bilsons in Circular Quay.
Guillaume won the contract to take over Bennelong at the Sydney Opera House, reopening it as Guillaume at Bennelong in 2001. This restaurant has been awarded two Chef Hats, was named by Australian Gourmet Traveller as ‘Restaurant of the Year’ and achieved a three Star rating in Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant Guide.
In 2008, Guillaume launched Bistro Guillaume in the Crown Casino in Melbourne. It has since received many awards, including ‘Best New Restaurant’ from both the Gourmet Traveller 2009 Restaurant Guide and the 2009 Age Good Food Guide.
Guillaume is married with three young daughters, lives in Sydney and is passionate about rugby.
MoVida chef and owner Frank Camorra was born in Barcelona and spent his first five years in his parents' hometown of Córdoba in Andalusia, before the family migrated to Australia.
In 2000, Frank returned to work in Spain and was inspired by both the modern and traditional aspects of Spanish cuisine, as well as the dynamic tapas culture which he thought would translate well to Melbourne’s vibrant CBD.
Returning to Australia, Frank was determined to share his inspiration and set up MoVida. In 2007, his ‘Cecina’ (air cured beef with truffle foam and poached egg) was awarded ‘Dish of the Year’ at the Age Good Food Guide Awards. MoVida has also received two Chef’s Hats and Frank was named ‘Chef of the Year’ in 2009 by The Age Good Food Guide. He has also published two cookbooks entitled MoVida and MoVida Rustica.
In June 2008, Frank opened MoVida Next Door, a casual bar with a focus on sherry and seafood, and was awarded the Don Levy Fitzpatrick Award at the 2009 Good Food Guide Awards. He has since launched Movida Aqui in Melbourne, a large restaurant with a terrace area.
As Executive Chef of the European Group, Ian Curley is a very busy chef. With three venues, three kitchens and a team of over 30 staff, the pace never quite slows for him.
Ian was born in Coventry in 1964 and later attended the Henley College of Catering Studies before training as a chef in London. One of his first jobs was as Chef de Partie and First Commis Chef at the Hyatt Carlton Towers Hotel, and he later worked at Sutherlands Restaurant before moving to Australia in 1988.
He worked as Head Chef in various Melbourne top restaurants, joining The Point as Group Executive Chef in 2001. Ian departed The Point in September 2006 to take the top job controlling the kitchens of European, City Wine Shop, Melbourne Supper club, and the new Siglo bar.
Ian is known as the “meat man around town” and has introduced many classic dishes that have always inspired him. A talented chef, he has become renowned for his creative and delicious meat dishes, created only with the best quality produce available in the country.
Ian Curley’s philosophy has always been the same; “to create imaginative, honest and flavoursome food” - it’s as simple as that.