Odd Culture Group may be a relatively new creation – a rebrand of Thorpe Hospitality Group, it was only established towards the end of last year – but it’s already making a mark. It’s reopened two beloved pubs that were victims of Covid-19 (The Old Fitz and The Duke of Enmore); kept Petersham’s Oxford Tavern going strong since 2019; and taken over Newtown’s Happy Chef space, where it’ll soon open a multi-level craft beer and natural wine bar (also named Odd Culture). It’s got ex-Momofuku Seiobo chef Anna Ugarte-Carral in the kitchen at The Old Fitz, and has now appointed ex-Restaurant Hubert head chef James MacDonald as its group executive chef.

Before the subterranean French diner, MacDonald worked his way through Melbourne establishments including Meatsmith, Luxembourg and the Builders Arms Hotel, and spent time at London institution St John. Now, in his new role at Odd Culture Group, he’ll be overseeing the group’s culinary direction, as well as creating a ferment-heavy menu at the Odd Culture bar in Newtown.

What’s your new job title?
Group executive chef.

Why did you decide to join Odd Culture?
Odd Culture is an emerging and ambitious group. Anna Ugarte-Carral (The Old Fitz) and I worked together at Restaurant Hubert, so I’m particularly excited to be collaborating with her again.

What do you have planned for your new role, and what are you most excited about?
I’ll be working across all Odd Culture venues, getting to know their teams. What’s most exciting for me is the prospect of working with different chefs and exploring different styles of food.

Will you bring along any dishes or ideas you’re known for?
I’ll be developing dishes collaboratively with the venues’ head chefs. No doubt there will be influences from my time in London, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

Will we see any cool dishes or ideas?
With a new venue opening shortly, of course!