Leading Chef: Luke Mangan

Luke Mangan is one of Australia’s leading chefs and restaurateurs and is highly regarded internationally as a shining example of Australia’s culinary culture. His career started in Melbourne under Herman Schneider, of ‘Two Faces’  fame.

After completing his training, Luke persuaded Michel Roux of the 3 Michelin starred ‘Waterside Inn’ in London to give him a chance. He believes that working under these great chefs in the early years were the two most important steps he took to learn his craft.

Luke currently owns and operates glass brasserie at the Hilton Sydney;  The Palace by Luke Mangan, South Melbourne; Salt & the adjoining World Wine Bar, Tokyo; Salt grill,  Singapore; and Salt grill onboard  three  P&O’s  cruise liners.   He is also the consulting chef for Virgin Blue Group.

While Luke’s restaurants range from gastropubs to fine dining establishments, they share the common thread of Luke’s cooking philosophy  – which is to source the finest and freshest local and Australian ingredients and showcase them with a clean and contemporary twist. Luke is renowned for his unexpected creations, which highlight his French classical training and Asian influences, married with simple, fresh, clean flavours. Luke’s cooking aims to enhance and accentuate, rather than mask, the natural taste of the ingredients.

In addition to running seven busy restaurants,  Luke has written four best-selling cookbooks and most recently, his autobiography  ‘The Making of a Chef’. He has launched his own range of gourmet products and also makes regular appearances on number of TV shows, both in Australia and internationally.

Luke regularly donates his culinary skills to  both  community and industry organisations to raise money for charity. He  supports  Camp Quality, Starlight Foundation, Royal Hospital for Children, amongst numerous others.

He is the co-founder of the Appetite for Excellencehospitality awards program which promotes the development of young chefs, waiters and restaurateurs in Australia.

Describe yourself in 3 words: Energetic, Busy and Open-minded.

What is your life motto? Never give up!

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? When I was young I didn’t really know what I wanted to be, but at the age of 15 when I started to cook it ignited a desire and passion for food. I’ve been very fortunate to work under some amazing chefs that fuelled my passion and creativity.

My big break was when I started working for John Hemmes and opened CBD on Valentine’s Day, 14th Feb 1994.

How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? A lifetime – it’s ongoing!

Describe how difficult the business really is? The business is full of challenges, as is any I guess, as our industry struggles to develop chefs and retrain them, I worry what will happen in the future. It takes a lot of dedication and passion to progress.  I could never imagine doing anything else!

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? Mistakes happen in all businesses, but as long as you accept that and have procedures in place to try and prevent them, procedures to fix them and the willingness to adapt then you’re ahead of 95% of businesses out there.  If you fall off the treadmill – pick yourself up and start running again!!What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? An old boss once told me ‘Keep pursuing your dreams’ and that’s exactly what I’ve done.In your mind, is formal training essential? Training is more important now than ever. It offers an array of opportunities to gain new skills, experience and qualifications which you will need to succeed in these very demanding jobs. It’s a path that is both exciting and exhausting; but in the end well worth sticking with.

Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? Yes it’s extremely important and in fact the reason I set up a hospitality awards program with Lucy Allon. It’s called ‘Appetite for Excellence’ and we hope to inspire, educate and support the emerging talent who are the future of our industry. We’ve got some great mentors on-board such as Tetsuya, Lyndey Milan, Peter Gilmore and Guy Grossi. Our aim is to encourage young chefs, waiters and restaurateurs.  We want to encourage these young people, as ultimately they be will responsible for sustaining and improving on, Australia’s reputation as one of the world’s leading food and wine destinations.

What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career? Get as much experience as you can and apply for a place in the Appetite for Excellence Program.

What kept you going when you felt like giving up? I was very committed and determined to be successful.  I also was extremely lucky to work with some amazing chefs – Michel Roux, Hermann Schneider and Rowley Leigh who passed on their passion to me.

Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? Yes it can be at times, but it also takes an awful lot of hard work and devotion. I truly believe if someone wants something bad enough, they will get it.

For more on Luke, go to Facebook    or Twitter @LukeMangan


A big thank you to Mairead O’Connor for all her assistance

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