These Australian Chefs Are Taking on the World ... and Winning
With a number of Australian chefs picked for prestigious kitchens and a growing appreciation of their laid-back style, 2017 should be a big year for their impact on the global food scene. Start with these six, then sniff out your own Antipodean talents.
Beau Clugston, Head chef and co-owner of Le 6 Paul Bert, Paris
Le 6 Paul Bert’s Beau Clugston has come a long way since the surfing days in his sleepy hometown in Sawtell, coastal New South Wales. After working some seven years as the sous chef at Noma and playing a key role in its 10-week Australia pop-up, Clugston left for Paris in 2016.
The 31-year-old now heads the iconic Le 6 in the 11th district. Situated a few doors down from its flagship Bistro Paul Bert (which Clugston likens to “a postcard of Parisian food”), his 35-seater was relaunched to much acclaim late last year. “Le 6 is basically how I interpret bistro in 2017. In that sense it’s very familiar to the mind, but very pure and clean in intensity and flavor—which couldn’t be further away from traditional bistro cooking.”
Clugston’s six-course menu, with produce sourced from the bistro’s own farm in Normandy, is winning over the toughest Parisian critics—the daily diners.
Frankie Cox, Executive chef, Two Hands Restaurant and Bar, New York
At 26, Frankie Cox is one of the youngest executive chefs in New York. The 70 seater in TriBeCa opened about a year ago. It’s a grown-up offshoot of the eponymous cafe in Nolita, where Cox used to get her daily coffee and avocado toast before starting at nearby seafood restaurant, Navy. That is, until Two Hands owners (and fellow Aussies) Giles Russell and Henry Roberts poached her.
Described as a community-focused restaurant with a “Bondi Beach vibe,” Cox’s menu is wholesome and vegetable-driven. “As Australians, nutrition and healthy eating are ingrained as part of our culture. We’re starting to change the game a bit here,” she says.
Dave Pynt, Head chef, Burnt Ends, Singapore
“You can come in and spend a lot of money or you can be in and out with a sanga (sandwich),” says Burnt Ends chef Dave Pynt, with a candor typical of Perth. Pynt’s irreverent tone belies the modern barbecue restaurant’s pedigree—it debuted at number 70 on The World’s Best Restaurants list in 2016.
The Aussie chef himself is a quiet achiever, with a CV spanning from Victor Arguinzoniz’s Asador Etxebarri in Spain to Rene Redzepi’s Noma and London’s St. John Bread & Wine.
Diners go to Burnt Ends for Pynt’s smoky, wood-fired protein, served straight from the belly of a four-ton, dual cavity oven. This year, the restaurant will host a “12 chefs 12 months” dinner series—a monthly takeover by guest chefs like nose-to-tail legend April Bloomfield.
Morgan McGlone, Culinary director of Commissary, Hong Kong; head chef, Belles Hot Chicken, Australia
A quick look at chef Morgan McGlone’s CV reveals his passion for America’s south. Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, the 42-year-old earned his chops as a chef at Husk, in Charleston, South Carolina.
From the heartland of soul food and buttermilk fried chicken, McGlone brought home his taste for the crunchy bird and opened Belles Hot Chicken in Melbourne (2014) and Sydney (2015). In 2016, McGlone was approached by restaurateur Yenn Wong to take his skills to Hong Kong. The result is a Southern Californian dining project called Commissary, where he acts as the culinary director, serving a mix of Latin and SoCal influenced dishes like tamales and fish tacos, as well as Southern barbecue. In other words, the kind of food where “spice gets into your blood.”
David Thompson, Restaurateur and chef, Nahm, Bangkok; Long Chim, in Singapore & Australia
Sydney-born David Thompson is many things to many food-lovers: the first chef to win a Michelin star for a Thai eatery, the writer of two seminal Thai food cookbooks, the winner of 2016’s 50 Best Asian Restaurants Lifetime Achievement Award.
And yet to himself, he is the “itinerant” who has spent no more than 10 days at home in the past six months, thanks to the rapid-fire openings of Long Chim branches in Australia. The expansion of his Thai street food institution has reached Perth, Sydney and Melbourne in the past 18 months, and there are plans to one day open in London and Hong Kong.
“Fine eating, good eating ain’t dead—not at all. It’s just changing,” says Thompson, “Instead of sitting down for four hours with a long menu, most people eat well and on their own terms. They are the new offshoots of the same aspirations.”
Bao La, Head chef, Le Garcon Saigon, Hong Kong
A champion of authentic Vietnamese cooking, chef Bao La’s Le Garcon Saigon is a grill house with a twist. “Just like Cantonese cooking can’t be defined by a bowl of wonton soup, Vietnamese food shouldn’t be defined by a bowl of pho,” he says.
The Brisbane-born chef emerged from Sydney’s Ms. G’s, where he met head chef Jowett Yu—his “mate and mentor”—with whom he opened Hong Kong’s Ho Lee Fook in 2014. A year later, La left for his own kitchen. Le Garcon Saigon has been compared to Basque barbecue icon Asador Etxebarri and was named one of the “12 Hottest Restaurants in Hong Kong” by eater.com.