Fine Food Alumni

Long before the dining proliferation in Sydney, Balmain and Rozelle was home to several hospitality super stars. If there ever was a foodies equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it would surely include these fine food alumni.

Tetsuya Wakuda
In 1989, a young chef named Tetsuya Wakuda opened his first restaurant in a converted terrace house on 729 Darling Street in Rozelle (now home to Local Bar). Introduced to French cooking by Tony Bilson, Tetsuya came to pioneer ‘fusion cuisine’. Word of the French Japanese fusion restaurant quickly spread, and it was booked out months in advance. After outgrowing Rozelle, Tetsuya moved to a gated compound in the CBD, complete with manicured gardens and a 40,000-bottle wine cellar. The awards rolled in, and in 1993 the SMH Good Food Guide awarded Tetsuya’s with three Chef’s Hats. He was later named one of the World’s Most Influential Chefs.
Where is he now?
Tetsuya is still at the helm of the Sydney restaurant as well as two-Michelin-starred Waku Ghin in Singapore.

Mark Best
During his apprenticeship at Macleay Street Bistro, Mark Best’s passion for French food was ignited. In 1995 he won the Josephine Pignolet Young Chef Award and decided to open his own restaurant. A Balmain local, with an emerging food scene on his doorstep, Mark chose 390 Darling Street, Balmain. Peninsula hit the mark with its modern Australian cuisine infused by French techniques and quickly gained local support.

After a stint at three-Michelin starred L’Arpege in Paris, Mark opened Marque, where he earned his own acclaim and countless awards including SMH Good Food Guide three Chef’s Hats and a place on San Pellegrino’s World’s Top 50 Restaurants list.
Where is he now?
Mark is an ambassador for AEG Australia and executive chef at Bistro by Mark Best, on a luxury ship sailing outof Singapore.

Myriam Cordellier-Wever
Blazing her own trail is Balmain’s beloved master baker, Myriam Cordellier-Wever, who established her boulangerie at 285 Darling Street Balmain over 30 years ago. Back in the heyday of fine dining, before artisan bread was a ‘thing’, this small Parisian bakery rose to fame with its signature sourdough. Victoire was the exclusive supplier to both Neil Perry’s Rockpool and Qantas first-class.
Where is she now?
Myriam continues an activerole in the business, which remains in both Rozelle and in the old Citroen van in Balmain.

Adriano Zumbo
Australia’s answer to Willy Wonka is pâtissier Adriano Zumbo who started his dessert empire in 2007 in a very humble space at 296 Darling Street, Balmain. In the years prior, this innovator crafted his French baking skills while working with Myriam at Victoire, before selling his own homemade sweets to his very first customer, Bertoni café. Zumbo rose to fame after appearing on Australia’s MasterChef. He rapidly expanded, setting up stores in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as managing his growing tv presenting portfolio including his own show, Just Desserts, filmed in the UK.
Where is he now?
Zumbo relocated to Queensland and recently opened a pick-up only store in Noosaville where you collect online orders of his delectable desserts.

Notable mentions
• Run by the great grandkids is another long-standing culinary success story, Belle Fleur Fine Chocolates. From a family chocolate shop in Belgium, the Heerdt family are fourth-generation chocolatiers who have maintained residence at 685 Darling Street Rozelle for over 30 years. These handcrafted delights have been hitting the sweet spot of many locals and visitors.
• Sydney’s first contemporary Turkish restaurant, Efendy, was born in Balmain, under the reigns of owner and chef Somer Sivrioglu. Somer and his all Turkish-speaking team operated for 14 years before closing late last year when the building was sold. He’s now opened Efendy in Turkey and is quite the celeb!
• Before Efendy, came L’Unico at the same historic Elliott Street site, (which incidentally is where I was married), a fine Italian dining experience led by the emerging talent of Danny Russo, who is now sharing his years of experience as a consultant chef, with his kitchen headquarters in Rozelle.
• I can’t write this list without including Bertoni (and full disclosure, I’m related), who led the gentrification of Sydney’s coffee scene. In their 18th year of business, this institution expanded across Sydney before scaling back to its roots in Balmain, freeing up time for Anthony’s burgeoning career in hospitality consulting.

Story by guest writer
Mina Iacono

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