8 Australian Chefs You Need To Know About

By James Shackell
29th Aug 2019

August is Food Month on Urban List where we look deeper into the best restaurants, dishes, and chefs from around Australia.

Australians tend to follow restaurants, not chefs. It’s usually about eating in some shit-hot venue. Only the wankiest food-o-philes actually know who’s shuffling pans in the kitchen, right? Well, not so much anymore. Thanks to shows like Masterchef, Aussies are getting exposed to crusty veterans and emerging culinary stars. Names like Perry, Polyviou, Tibbals, Bennet, Moran and Kwong.

But there are still hundreds of amazing chefs manning the kitchens around Australia every night. These are some of our favourites. Eight Aussie chefs that are making waves around the country. 

Benjamin Cooper

Benjamin Cooper has one of the biggest jobs in Australian food. He’s Group Executive Chef of Melbourne’s all-powerful Lucas Group (Chin Chin, Kisume, Baby, Kong etc).

You might argue where Australia’s restaurant renaissance started, but a lot of experts would put Patient Zero as Melbourne’s Chin Chin, with its no-bookings and Thai fusion. They still get queues out the door. Cooper helped put Chin Chin on the map, but he’s also worked at Nobu in London and David Thompson at Nahm.

Nick Stanton

Another one of Melbourne’s vaguely punk-rock chef brigade—Nick Stanton is the guy behind Ramblr (RIP), Leonard’s House of Love, Leonardo’s Pizza Palace and the new Leo’s By The Slice (guy has a thing for Leos…) Tatted-up Stanton grew up in Tweed Heads on the Queensland/NSW border, but he’s made Melbourne his home turf. If you want to know which way Victorian food winds are blowing, follow this kid.

Analiese Gregory

Repping the Apple Isle, Analiese Gregory recently got hatted in the Good Food Guide awards 201. She’s worked all over the world, including stints at Bras in France and Mugaritz in San Sebastian, but now calls Tasmania home, working the pass at David Moyle’s Franklin.

Peter Gilmore called her the most serious and dedicated young chef in the country, and that guy is hard to impress. Make sure to check out Franklin next time you’re in Hobart.

Amanda Yong

One of Perth’s up-and-comers. Amanda Yong worked at Wildflower for a while with her partner Mathieu Fichot, but now runs her own digs—Callover Café.

Amanda built her reputation with pastries, working stints at Rockpool and Perth’s famous dessert bar, Measure. Not bad for someone who’s only 27.

Julian Hills

It might seem strange that one of Melbourne’s most ambitious, extraordinary meals is sitting on a quiet street in Yarraville, in the city’s west. That’s the home of Julian Hills’ Navi.

There are only about 15 seats in the restaurant, and Julian serves up ridiculous eight or 12-course degustation menus every night, sourcing ingredients from local gardens. Julian earned multiple hats at Paringa Estate on the Mornington Peninsula, but he’s taken Melbourne food into a whole new stratosphere at Navi.

Meg Thompson

Brisbane’s Meg Thompson was always going to be a chef. When other teenagers were out buying clothes, Meg was saving up to throw dinner parties for her mates.

She’s done an apprenticeship at Il Centro and cut her teeth at Brisbane’s La Lune Wine Co, mixing Australian native ingredients with some simple techniques. She’s between kitchens right now, but watch out for this one.

Dario Manca

Dario Manca got the dream start to his cooking career: an internship at Michelin two-starred restaurant Villa Crespi in Orta San Giulio. Follow that with stints at Gordon Ramsay’s La Contrada, more Michelin stars at Venice’s Met Restaurant and London’s Apsleys, before returning to Australia to head up Za Za Ta in Brisbane.

Not a shabby resume by any stretch. This guy was the Young Chef of the Year in 2015, and you need to try his take of Middle Eastern cuisine…Mindblowing.

Nelly Robinson

Every Sydney foodie has heard of nel. And if you’ve heard of nel, you’ve probably heard of Nelly Robinson, the owner and Executive Chef.

Nelly started in kitchens at age 14, working in the UK’s Michelin-starred Northcote Manor.  He opened nel when he was just 29 and pretty much blew Sydney away. It’s now the 79th best restaurant in Australia, and Nelly himself is officially the 228th best chef in the world.

Keep up to date with the latest food trends on our Food & Drink section.

Image credit: Benjamin Cooper | Supplied

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