Born: Melbourne, VIC
History: Having worked abroad in Europe and Asia, Andrew McConnell has ultimately made a name for himself in Melbourne where he was born and raised. His experience in London, Hong Kong & Shanghai has influenced his independent restaurant endeavours back home in Australia. Andrew has a huge fan base in Melbourne, having twice been honoured Chef of the Year by The Age.
McConnell’s previous restaurants include Three, One, Two, Mrs Jones and Diningroom 211. He currently resides as Executive Chef and Owner of three Melbourne restaurants situated in remarkably diverse Melbourne districts, each with their own distinct character. Award winning Cumulus Inc. (Flinders Lane) and Cutler & Co. (Fitzroy) were opened in the space of one year, while Golden Fields (St Kilda) was not far behind; each establishment is spaciously designed with distinctive architecture and food that fits the environs.
Everything Andrew touches seems to turn to gold these days as Cumulus Inc. is a chefs hat award winner three years and running; Cutler and Co. follows suit and has also won the prestigious Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year 2011 distinction. Golden Fields launched with immediate recognition, earning the 2012 Age Good Food Guide Best New Restaurant to its acclaim.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
I pretty much knew straight away that I would eventually own my own restaurant. From that realization, I went on to work with passionate Owner/Chefs in dynamic environments and was groomed.
How would you define your style?
It’s based on European techniques with our own approach; you’ll find my food is often simple with deliciously juxtaposed elements. We work closely with quality growers to keep things fresh and that directly influences what we put on our menu. Fresh produce is the key and we work with it to bring out the most flavour - vegetables are the trend.
Fine dining is an important part Melbourne dining culture on the whole and it’s here to stay. Within modern fine dining, there’s a strong shift to casual contexts, and food that is designed for sharing. This is not a new revelation; dining in Chinese culture has been this way for centuries.
What is your feature flavour these days?
We are definitely emphasizing vegetables and salads in our menus though in contrast you’ll also discover Charcuterie specialities in the Cumulus Inc. a la carte menu (keep an eye out for the special ‘kitchen’s selection’ of fine meats).
Obsessive compulsive about?
We work closely with quality growers that influence what we put on our menu.
Your greatest culinary inspirations?
Mom was an adventurous cook and we ate out often as a family which also helped draw my attention to the industry.
What do you love about this business?
Food, hospitality & cheffing is pure magic. I’ve had a wide combination of experiences of cooking, eating, and training over the past 20 years and having distilled it down to this package. Our restaurants teams are comprised of enthusiastic, like-minded thinkers, front of house and in the kitchen.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
I’m constantly looking for what’s in season, seeking out farmers who grow various greens, foraged vegetables and wild herbs.
Most “eyebrow raising” menu item? At Golden Fields, our lobster rolls can be ordered for take away. And you’ll find fresh shucked oysters at all our restaurants, served in exploratory ways.
Signature Dish: At Cumulus we keep salt cod soup with parsley on the menu since customers have been known to threaten our chefs should we ever remove this dish from the menu. Cutler & Co. is known not so much for one “signature dish” rather for its signature degustations; here you’ll always find a degustation awaits and we offer a Sunday lunch fixed menu that knows no match.