For a country of just 23 million people, Australia punches above its weight in a number of areas, not least the culinary arts. A steady stream of supremely-talented chefs have emerged in recent years, wowing diners around the world with fearless and innovative cooking.
Here are five of the best Australian chefs plying their trade across the country:
Martin Benn - Sepia Restaurant, Sydney
English-born Martin Benn’s resume includes working in some of London’s most iconic restaurants under chefs including Michel Lorrain and Marco Pierre White. Twenty years on from moving to Australia, he finds himself arguably the country’s most celebrated domestic chef with awards including the Gourmet Traveller Chef of The Year 2015 and The Australian Magazine Hottest Chef of the Year for 2015.
Since opening Sepia restaurant in Sydney in 2009, he has overseen its meteoric rise, winning and maintaining the highest rating of three chef hats. His Japanese-inspired cuisine, notable for a light-handed approach, is greatly influenced by his time working under the renowned Tetsuya Wakuda.
Duncan Welgemoed - Bistro Dom and Africola, Adelaide
Adelaide is not the first city to spring to mind when it comes to Australian gourmet destinations, but that is changing fast thanks in no small part to chefs like Duncan Welgemoed. Trained at the Fat Duck, he is known for delivering classic French bistro dishes, beautifully-presented at Bistro Dom. The house made charcuterie is legendary.
Recently however he has launched another new venture, Africola, inspired by growing up in South Africa. Unsurprisingly the barbecue – or braai – is front and centre, featuring across a seriously carnivorous journey including cow heads, ‘proper’ peri peri chicken, ‘boerewors’ sausages and more. The wine list celebrates local McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley wineries as well as South African classics.
Lauren Eldridge - Marque restaurant, Sydney
One of Australia’s most exciting young chefs is a multi award-winning patissier, currently pastry chef at Marque in Sydney’s Surrey Hills. After a recent trip to Delhi, she is also set to do stages in legendary Parisian kitchens including Guy Savoy & George V.
These experiences will doubtless extend her repertoire and renown even further, as has winning the Josephine Pignolet Young Chef Of Year award, following in the footsteps of former winners including Brett Graham at The Ledbury in London. Her signature dish of ‘Honeycomb and Cultured Cream’ was named on Gourmet Traveller’s 2015 ‘hot list’.
Nic Wong - Cho Cho San restaurant, Sydney
Cho Cho San is a red-hot Sydney restaurant named after the heroine of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Young Chinese-Vietnamese chef Nick Wong has made it the place to be seen for Japanese izakaya style small plates, with added plating and finesse. Duck smoked in Jasmine tea, an eggplant miso dip and super-crispy chicken fried in rice batter all feature on his menu, alongside a raw bar of knockout seafood.
Wong’s time working under legends Kylie Kwong and Neil Perry has clearly paid off and his innovative and quirky approach to Japanese dining has already won legions of fans.
Shannon Bennett - Vue de Monde Restaurant, Melbourne
Chef and author Shannon Bennett needs little introduction to Australian gourmets thanks to his regular stints on Masterchef, but it’s his work at Vue de Monde in Melbourne’s Rialto Tower which continues to win acclaim. Bennett worked under greats including Albert Roux, Marco Pierre White and Alain Ducasse before returning home to Melbourne in 2000 and at just 24 years of age opening Vue de monde in a humble terrace building in Carlton.
His obsession for classical cuisine matched with an edgy approach delivered a cult following who have stayed with him ever since, even as he has moved premises to the 55th floor where the restaurant name is more apt than ever.