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Interview with Luke Mangan

Luke Mangan.. “He’s an Entrepreneur.. you have to be more than just a chef to become a successful chef these days, and you have to be media savvy, good on television.. You’ve got to have substance behind you, and he’s got substance.”- Sir Richard Branson Welcome to the life of Aussie chef Luke Mangan, one of Australias leading food icons. Juggling multiple roles including internationally renowned chef, restaurateur, best selling author and business entrepreneur luke is in high demand both here and overseas, but, like a lot of our home grown success stories Luke keeps his down to earth persona intact. His international portfolio has him owning and operating ten hugely successful restaurants and wine bars throughout Australia and Asia where he splits his time equally. For all of us budding ‘masterchefs’ in the making, taking a leaf from Luke’s book might prove highly beneficial, having cooked for the like of Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson, Tom Cruise, Crown Prince Frederik and our very own Princess Mary. Luke may be the shining example of Australias culinary culture, but as we find out he loves nothing more than to come home to a relaxing Aussie BBQ.. With a reputation that epitomises culinary expertise and a world that revolves around food, where did all this food fascination stem from? Definitely from my mum! As a young kid I never liked school much but always enjoyed cooking with my mum. At the age of 15, I decided school wasn’t for me so I completed two weeks work experience at South Yarra restaurant Two Faces, under owner Hermann Schneider and haven’t looked back since! Working under some of the most renowned chefs in Australia, this where you learnt the art of fine food? Absolutely, I was privileged enough to work for some of the best Australian and international chefs; Hermann Schneider, Michel Roux and Rowley Leigh. They taught me everything including discipline in the kitchen and realising that cooking is not a 40-hour a week job. How does being a celebrity chef, who cooks for some of the biggest names in the world, compare to the days when you were just starting out.. Do you miss the anonymity? I have had the privilege of cooking for the likes of Bill Clinton, Richard Branson and Princess Mary so it is definitely different from when I first started out, spending hours peeling potatoes in a hot kitchen – but everyone needs to start out somewhere! I do love being in the kitchen and I love the interaction with the chefs but I also enjoy being able to get out of the kitchen to say ‘hi’ to my customers. You have an outstanding collection of achievements, awards and career highlights. If possible to narrow down, is there a favourite moment that best resinates with you? It would have to be 1999, when I opened my first restaurant, Salt.  It was just before the Olympics, which proved to be great timing because of the promotion Australian tourism, including restaurants, were enjoying at the time. That was a fantastic time for me and a real defining moment in my career. With your well recognised ‘Salt Grill’ and ‘Glass Brasserie’ restaurants and wine bars in Hilton hotels, Australia and various locations throughout Asia; your international portfolio of restaurants have quickly become well known fine dining establishments. So for all us budding entrepreneurs out there, what is your recipe for success? I think our restaurants have always kept to the same philosophy; simple, fresh flavours using the best quality produce and ingredients, without following food trends. ‘The Making of a Chef’ is the title of your autobiography. What do you think draws people to the high intensity, fast paced lifestyles of elite culinary chefs as yourself? I started my cooking career at a time when chefs weren’t given the celebrity status that they are today. It was a hard slog and not your ‘nine to five’ job, but I think people are definitely drawn to the opportunities that can come with being a chef, it can really open doors to travel and work in some of the best restaurants in the world. Not just a contributor to the kitchen, you also regularly assist with charities and foundations in need. We think it’s wonderful you’re using your celebrity platform to raise awareness and money to such worthy causes.. We always try to support our chosen charities and foundations as much as we can by way of dinner events, cookbook recipe contributions and raffle donations. We have a great team of chefs and hospitality staff that really get behind these foundations too. As if ten restaurants, producing best-selling books and charity work don’t keep your hands busy enough, you are also a business entrepreneur in your own right, this year launching the ‘Luke Mangan Providores’ and ‘Baby Bites’ ranges. What are these brands all about? I developed the providores range so A can enjoy chef-standard products when cooking at home. We use this range every day at all my restaurants because it’s such a simple way to boost a dish. I’m passionate about developing products that turn a good home-cooked meal into a great one. The providores range consists of locally sourced, cold pressed olive oils, vinegars, an extensive range of spice rubs, dukkah, relishes and mustards. The newly launched Baby Bites range is a range of healthy meals for toddlers over ten months. It is the first fresh baby food range in Australia developed by a Michelin star-trained chef. Feeding your children healthy, clean food gives them the best start in life. I appreciate that not everyone has the time to cook three homemade meals for their toddler each day, which is why I’ve developed the Baby Bites range, so that busy parents can feed their children good food, regardless of how busy they are. It’s all about allowing young taste buds to enjoy real ingredients and freshly made, nutritious food. Sydney, Singapore, Jakarta, Gold Coast and Tokyo are just some of the locations of your restaurants. You must be working up some serious frequent flyers points! Where do you like to spend most of your time? I couldn’t pick just one place; each city is great for different reasons. I love the dining scene in Singapore, there are some great international chefs opening up some amazing restaurants but I also enjoy being home in Sydney, I love a Sydney summer cooking on my BBQ. I am really fortunate enough to travel over 6 months of the year and with restaurants interstate and overseas I try to divide the time equally. Cooking is clearly your focus in life, we’re interested to hear what else takes up your time away from cooking? To be honest, if I am not cooking then I am out somewhere eating! I love to scout out new restaurants and try new places. It’s all about tapas and shared plates for me at the moment, it’s a great way to share a meal with friends and try lots of different things on the menu. What is your advice about how people can become better in the kitchen, helping to ensure they get enough nourishment and vitamins from their food? I think the key to delicious, healthy food is to try and have the best possible produce you can and to keep it simple – ingredients like fresh herbs and good quality olive oil can really make a difference to even the simplest of dishes. Always broaden your horizons with food and try new things and new ways of cooking them…

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