George CalombarisMelbourne, Australia
At the age of 38, George Calombaris is one of Australia’s top chefs. His highly influential style of cuisine has earned him many accolades and much respect from culinary aficionados in Australia and around the globe.
George has always been fascinated by food. Inspired by his mother and grandmother (two brilliant cooks) George quickly learnt about food and cooking. Although born and bred in Melbourne, Australia, his Greek heritage was central in his upbringing. With its rich and varied cuisine, there was no doubt that this would later become George’s trademark.
His heritage not only instilled in him his love for food; it taught him about the enjoyment and satisfaction of seeing others revel in great food and unforgettable dining experiences.
George’s career has been exceptional from the beginning. He completed his apprenticeship at one of Melbourne’s five star hotels, Hotel Sofitel, where he won the Bonland National Apprentice of the Year Award in 1999.
Soon after, George found himself leading a team of 11 qualified and apprentice chefs at MasterChef co-judge Gary Mehigan’s Fenix Restaurant. Among the many accolades achieved during George’s time at Fenix, the restaurant was honoured with the 2001 Restaurant of the Year for Victoria, as part of Melbourne’s Food and Wine Festival with the Herald Sun.
In 2003, George Calombaris was selected to represent Australia at the Bocuse d’Or International Culinary Grand Prix in Lyon, France. He achieved the best ever result for an Australian representative at that time. In the same year, George was the mastermind behind the successful Melbourne restaurant Reserve, where his own personal style was on show. His food was an often-surprising hybrid of classical haute cuisine and experimental ideas. Quoted as “very out there”, George’s molecular gastronomy has seen him become a much talked about chef on the international cooking circuit. As a result, in 2004, the Global Food and Wine Magazine voted George as one of the Top 40 Chefs of Influence in the World.
In The Age Good Food Guide (2004), George was awarded with ‘Young Chef of the Year’ and Reserve won ‘Best New Restaurant’ as well as receiving two prestigious chefs hats. Following these awards, George was swiftly approached to Guest Chef on many television programmes and later taking on a regular appearance on Australia’s popular daytime TV show Ready Steady Cook.
In October 2006, at the age of 27, George opened his flagship restaurant, The Press Club and directly adjacent The Press Club Bar, which would be remodelled to become The Little Press & Cellar in 2010. This began a new era for George and cemented his place as a culinary star for his Modern Greek Cuisine – never seen before Melbourne; where modern twists to traditional Greek cuisine has put this restaurant on the global map and has diner’s wanting more.
George’s ‘Modern Greek’ concept paid off. At the Victorian Restaurant and Catering Awards in 2006 The Press Club was named Best New Restaurant and nominated for Best New Restaurant in Australia.
At The Age Good Food Guide Awards in 2008, The Press Club was awarded two prestigious chef hats and crowned ‘Best New Restaurant 2008’. George was also awarded ‘Chef of the Year 2008’. It was also in 2008 that The Age Melbourne Magazine named George within the Top 100 Most Influential People. The success of The Press Club has taken George to new heights. In 2007, he was approached by a 5 Star boutique hotel in Mykonos, The Belvedere Hotel, to use his much-admired Modern Greek Cuisine style in the luxurious surrounds of their hotel. In June 2008, The Belvedere Club was born – a poolside restaurant, sitting opposite the world famous Nobu Restaurant for three years.
On the back of a successful 2008, George Calombaris went on to launch his first cookbook aptly named ‘The Press Club’ and following in December brought his traditional Greek heritage to life with the opening his fourth Melbourne restaurant Hellenic Republic. With this extremely busy restaurant came George’s second cookbook ‘Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart’.
In 2009, George was selected to be a judge on what was to become Australia’s best rating TV show in history, MasterChef Australia. Now commencing its ninth series, MasterChef Australia has become a benchmark for MasterChef programmes around the world, including its edition of Junior MasterChef. George’s connection with the children on Junior MasterChef touched viewers nationally. Motivated by this experience, George began working on his cookbook for kids, ‘Georgie Porgie’, which was released in September 2011.
It is needless to say that George is constantly pushing the boundaries. 2010 was yet again another busy year as George launched his third cookbook ‘Your Place or Mine’ with once boss and
MasterChef Australia co-judge, Gary Mehigan. Its success led to the cookbook sequel ‘Cook with Us’ released in October 2011.
George prides himself on never forgetting the detail, but always thinking big. His restaurant standards continue with The Press Club being awarded two chefs hats in the 2011 The Age Good Food Guide.
To add to what was already a remarkable year for George, in August 2011, he was awarded 2011 Entrepreneur of Year Southern Region Emerging category in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year Awards.
This prestigious accolade was in recognition of George’s involvement in developing MAdE Establishment, which had grown to encompass seven restaurants in five years, his role as a judge on MasterChef Australia, and individual pursuits in terms of cookbook and establishing the George Calombaris brand.
In addition to this, George Calombaris has also been recognised by Greece’s Hospitality Industry with a ‘Gourmet’ award for his efforts in raising the profile of Greek cuisine in Australia.
Time never sits still with Calombaris; 2013 proved to be an exciting year with the infamous Press Club closing in March 2013 and re-opening in December 2013 (as a much smaller and intimate restaurant of 10 tables), alongside his new purpose built creative and development kitchen, Press Club – Projects.
The Press Club closed to make room for Gazi, which opened in May 2013. Taking up the original space of The Press Club as it moved to a smaller space next door.
Named after and inspired by an eclectic neighbourhood surrounding an old gasworks in Athens, GAZI is a Greek restaurant in Melbourne CBD where anything goes. From the ink-splattered walls to industrial steel benches, GAZI is a no-frills, no-fuss bar-slash-Greek-restaurant where you can drink, eat and let loose – without the rules.
Off the back of Gazi in August 2013, George brought to life his casual souvlaki bar – Jimmy Grants. Celebrating the story of Australia’s many immigrants and branching out across Melbourne in Fitzroy, CBD, Ormond, Richmond, the re-developed Eastland and newly opened Robina in Queensland.
Following what had already been a very exciting year, in October 2015 George launched his 6th cookbook titled GREEK, a collection of 100 recipes inspired by his journey thus far, including favourites from across his venues and even a chapter of recipes from him mum. Off the back of this cookbook, George created a cookware range with Salt&Pepper named GREEK in late 2016.
In 2016 we saw the latest “Hellenic” instalment Hellenic Hotel come to life in Williamstown, taking over the old Hobsons Bay Hotel on Ferguson street.
See George Calombaris on stage at the Good Food Theatre, presented by ILVE at the Good Food & Wine Show in Sydney.