Danielle Alvarez, the well-regarded head chef of Merivale’s Paddington fine-diner Fred’s, has announced she will depart the restaurant in May. Alvarez was lured from America to Sydney by Merivale’s Justin Hemmes to open the restaurant almost six years ago. With her, she brought the farm-to-table ethos she learnt at Alice Waters’ seminal California diner Chez Panisse, plus experience at some of America’s other top restaurants, including the three Michelin-starred French Laundry.

In a statement, Alvarez says she wants to “take some time away from the front line to focus more on the creative aspects of my career”.

“Without a doubt, developing Fred’s with Justin [Hemmes], which started from an idea sitting around his kitchen table, and then bringing it to life has been the greatest and most satisfying achievement of my personal career.”

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Fred’s is renowned for building close relationships with farmers and cooking produce simply on an open-fire hearth. Chefs cook behind a handsome marble countertop, and the dining room evokes the rustic warmth of a farmhouse. When it opened in 2016 it further signalled Merivale’s ambition to become a major player in Sydney’s dining scene.

“During my time leading Fred’s, I have been extremely fortunate to work with so many talented people in the Merivale family and with dedicated, passionate farmers who value good soil as much as they value the ingredients they grow,” says Alvarez. “It has been an incredible journey watching this dream of feeding simple, delicious, high-quality food to people in a beautiful setting surrounded by an open fire come to fruition, and I am so proud of the place it is today, cemented in the Paddington and Sydney community.”

Alvarez’s replacement will be announced in due course.