Chef interviews

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Shannon Bennett

Interviewed August 2011

Shannon is executive chef of Vue de Monde, regarded by many as the best restaurant in Melbourne. He trained classically yet is also influenced by the latest cooking trends, and has a deep interest in ingredients.

Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?

20 years, started when I was 15

Q – Where did you train to cook?

I trained at the Grand Hyatt melbourne for 3 years as an apprentice. I then worked for John Burton Race for 2 years, Marco Pierre White at the restaurant for 2.5 years, Albert Roux in pastry and Hotel de Paris with Ducasse for a year.

Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?

French based with a focus on telling Australian history and fresh local produce. I see my suppliers and partners in the restaurant and regard them as good mates. Melbourne's "marvelous Melbourne" era of between 1860 - 1890 is a huge influence on my idea for a dish. It was such an extravagant era. Melbourne even imported its ice from lake Masachuchis as it was regarded as the most pure! To invent new dishes one must invent new ingredients. I don't want to invent new ingredients! My cooking is also influenced by Cory Campbell who is my head chef. My team have a huge say on our menu. Cory was Rene's right hand man for four years at Noma before he joined me 2.5 years ago.

Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?

Humility and produce and experience in all areas that cannot be produced at home. If a wine for instance can be bought at a regular general licence bottle shop on street corner (usually current vintage) then it should not be bought in a restaurant.

Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?

Michel Bras chocolate biscuit. I was given some tips by the master himself a few years ago. I now serve it in my bistro with the permission of Michel Bras. Also yakatori grilled kangaroo with brown butter or the huon pine broth are favorites at the moment.

Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?

Yes quite a few, any fish that comes from Mark Eather (Japanese grand master), David Blackmores mishima beef and Australian game such as kangaroo and wallaby.

Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?

Any restuarant that shows passion combined with friendliness and humility.

What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?

Meeting great guests with great stories and over the past few years serving the food myself to guests and training other chefs and building great friendships.

What would be your “last request” dish?

Pan fried foie gras, toasted broiche and a bottle of 67 d 'Yquem

Is there another chef that you most admire?

There are quite a few. I respect any chef that works hard and is passionate combined with a humble approach. I think Tetesyua is in this mould. many great chefs are. Thomas Keller, Rene Redzepi, Andoni Aduriz and Heston Blumenthal are also great humble people with incredible food brains.

Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?

Work hard and remeber the bad days make the good days. This industry is about long hours and low pay when starting off don't expect it owes you, it's what you owe it.

Any final thoughts you’d like to add?     

I would love people from Europe to tell me what, in a snapshot, is Australian cusine? Do foreigners think we have an identifiable culture translated in our food? I am hoping to answer this someday.

Current Restaurant

Vue de Monde