Public Hospitality is on a hot streak. The company recently made headlines for its acquisition of the Maybe Group, and it continues to overhaul grim Sydney pubs at a rapid clip – most recently The Lady Hampshire in Camperdown.

And the heat goes on: acclaimed Sydney chef Clayton Wells (ex-Automata, Mod Dining) has just stepped up as group creative culinary director. He’ll oversee menus across Public’s current stable, spanning from tacos and tostadas at Paddington cantina El Primo Sanchez, to French bistro classics at The Strand in Darlinghurst.

“My role at Public is ... to provide creative vision across our diverse portfolio alongside [group culinary director] Nick Mahlook, looking at overall culinary direction and supporting the chef talent in the kitchen,” Wells told Broadsheet ahead of the announcement.

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He’ll also lead the charge on menu development and dining concepts for the group’s future openings – including a major hotel due later this year.

“The yet-to-be-named hotel in South Bondi is the venue I’m most excited about. I’m connecting with talented people across Sydney to collaborate with and create something distinctive,” he says.

“Bondi has also seen an uplift in new openings in the hospitality space recently, so we’re working on a culinary concept with a unique perspective to offer locals and visitors a must-visit location in the area.”

In addition to the new gig, Wells will continue to steer the ship at his eponymous diner inside Sydney Modern, the new, once-in-a-generation wing at the AGNSW.

When Automata opened at The Old Clare in 2015, Wells immediately turned heads for his clever approach to Aussie ingredients, staking his claim as one of the country’s most exciting young chefs. He would go on to open all-day diner A1 Canteen in 2018, before closing it two years later due to pandemic pressures.

Wells announced his departure from Automata last year – and with it the end of the celebrated Chippendale fine diner.