Mark Penna
Mark Penna

Mark Penna

Born: Alice Springs

History: I started as an apprentice Chef when I was 15, under a 52 year old Brutal Swiss German Chef in the days when it was still acceptable to be literally kicked up the backside or clipped behind the ear for being too slow, untidy or cheeky.

I finished my apprenticeship under Michael Wood at Pier Nine where I worked for four years before spending two hard years in London where I was lucky enough to work under Michelin starred Chef Herbert Berger at One Lombard. 

I started there as a Commis and worked my way up to Chef de Partie. I learned a lot, taking in all the knowledge and classical cookery techniques that I could. I also learned how to work hard.

Upon returning to Australia I worked with Bruno Loubet at Baguette. Working with Bruno opened my eyes and showed me how to best apply all the techniques I had learned in London.

From here I started my 3 year stint at Aria under Ben Russell. I really enjoyed working at Aria and Ben gave me a great opportunity as a Senior Chef de Partie with freedom to hone my skills in sauce making and practice the classical cookery that has become my love.

All of these Chefs have been very influential and inspiring to me, both inside and outside of the kitchen. I hope to be able to pass on the goodwill and knowledge they have showed me.

Have you always wanted to be a Chef? I have wanted to be a Chef as long as I can remember. I have always been close to food and fascinated by flavour. I remember walking around the garden with my grandmother and her teaching me how to taste the herbs growing. Being the eldest sibling of a large family I learned to cook from quite a young age, and with after school jobs on local farms I grew up with a knowledge of and respect for where food comes from.

How would you define your style? Classical with modern interpretations.

What is your feature flavour these days? Freshly grated nutmeg and tarragon.

Obsessive compulsive about? Seasoning, structure and personal hygiene.

Your greatest culinary inspirations/influences: I am inspired and influenced everyday by everyday people. You never stop learning 
or being inspired as a chef.

What do you love about this business? I love that I get to indulge my passion for classical cookery every day. I also find it really rewarding seeing people enjoy my culinary creations. 

An ingredient you can’t live without? I have three: onion, olive oil and lemon. 

Most ‘eyebrow raising’ menu item? “Carbonara” entree. My take on this classic dish is served up with Carbonara macaroni, braised pork cheek, cured pork cheek, parmesan custard and a slow cooked hen’s egg.

Signature dish: Pan roasted Milly Hill loin, Braised shoulder with artichokes and pearl barley.