Few chefs have had as much of an impact on Australia’s culinary landscape as Neil Perry, and today he announced that he’ll be retiring from his role as culinary director and ambassador for the Rockpool Dining Group (RDG).
Though the pioneering chef will remain a consultant and a major shareholder in the company, he’ll be focusing on charitable projects and the ongoing development of Hope Delivery – an initiative he created (backed by the Rockpool Foundation) to provide free meals for vulnerable people.
“As the business now needs to embark on a new chapter it is time for a fresh start,” Perry said in a statement. “It will never be easy to move on from the restaurants I founded, and I do so with a heavy heart, but as the business and the sector set their sights on new beginnings, it is the right time for the next generation to have the opportunity afforded to me over 40 years ago.”
Perry’s first restaurant, Blue Water Grill, opened in Bondi in 1986 and swiftly emerged as Sydney’s pre-eminent seafood fine diner. In the decades since he’s opened a number of restaurants that helped to define the Australian dining scene, including Rockpool, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple, Rosetta and Eleven Bridge.
In 2017, when the world’s greatest chefs came to Melbourne for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, it was Perry they selected to cook the food. He put Australia’s best produce on the plate.
He also helped to redefine in-flight dining when he was hired by Qantas in 1997; authored a number of bestselling cookbooks; and appeared on a number of TV shows, including Fast & Fresh and Masterchef.
In March, Perry announced he would part ways with Urban Purveyor Group and regain control over the premium restaurants he created as part of the Rockpool empire: Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and Rosetta.
RDG was formed in 2016, when Urban Purveyor Group acquired Perry’s hospitality business. He was on track to take back those restaurants but then the pandemic halted everything. The specifics of the deal aren't clear yet.
RDG oversees more than 85 venues, including Fratelli Fresh, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple, El Camino Cantina Saké and the most profitable, The Bavarian venues. It had reported revenue in excess of $400 million. It had plans to list, and in 2018 the company announced it would back pay staff $1.6 million following a payroll review conducted by accounting firm PWC after a Fairfax media investigation.
CEO Thomas Pash thanked Perry for his 40 years of service to the industry. “We are excited for Rockpool Dining Group’s future with many fantastic people driving the business forward during its next chapter whilst also maintaining and building on the DNA embedded by Neil in the business,” he said.