With a career spanning nearly four decades, Peter Gilmore is a legend of Australian fine dining. He’s the most consistently awarded chef in the country, and he’s mentored chefs who’ve gone on to work at international Michelin-starred restaurants. He splits his time between two iconic Sydney restaurants, Quay and Bennelong, often spending his day racing between the two.

Born in the Harbour City, Gilmore has been cooking professionally since the age of 16. Driven by an obsession for fresh produce, he owns a farm in Tasmania, where he grows heirloom veggies and fruits used in his restaurants. Passionate about supporting new talent, he’s been a judge and mentor to young people competing in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year Academy Competition, which is currently gearing up for its 2024-25 edition. He also serves as an ambassador for a whiskey brand and Australia’s wider hospitality scene.

Gilmore joined us on Broadsheet Around Town to chat about what inspires his menus, and the challenges currently facing his industry. We also hear about his love of yum cha and jazz, and the restaurants he rates around the world.

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On the inspiration behind his menus

Working at the very top level of restaurants, I think you’ve really got to strive for something that has an originality or at least a uniqueness in its approach. And that really comes from years and years of knowledge and experience and accumulated tastes and memories.

It comes down to a really personal feeling: What is it that I believe would be a beautiful combination of flavours, or a really interesting technique that I haven’t seen before. So, [it involves] a lot of experimentation. A lot of my inspiration comes from growing the produce and seeing [how] a particular vegetable, when it’s really young, is super tender. Or when it flowers, the flowers are beautiful to eat, or the seed pods, or there’s some aspect of the growing cycle that’s not taken advantage of.

On racing back and forth between Quay and Bennelong

I had this great idea when we first took over Bennelong eight years ago. I was thinking that it’s going to be really good, I’ll get really fit because I’ll walk between the two. But the reality is, it’s a 30 minute walk, and 30 minutes is precious. You could probably do it in 20 if you walk really fast, but it’s actually easier just to jump in the car.

A big part of my job is the development, the concepts, the new menus and the new ideas for recipes. Everything that is involved in that, right through from sourcing and training. So, it is hands on from that perspective. But also, being in the venues you can keep a pulse of what’s happening.

On his favourite spots to eat in Sydney

I’m quite a big fan of yum cha on my days off.There’s a place in Chatswood called Mama Mulan that I go to regularly, because I live on the north side. And I think Mr Wong does a great yum cha as well. There’s so many.

There are some great restaurants that are doing really innovative things like Cafe Paci and Ester. That model of a smaller restaurant with a smaller team just pushing out really incredibly delicious food; [it’s] always exciting to go to those restaurants.