Nicolas Poelaert
Nicolas Poelaert

Nicolas Poelaert

Born: France

History & background: Nic is from a small village in France's north called Cappellebrouck.  He started attending Chef school at age 14.  He completed his apprenticeship at 1 Michelin star restaurant, La Meunerie, under Alain Gelle. 

At 18 Nic moved to Scotland to expand his horizons and learn English, where he worked for several years before moving to Australia in December 1999. In 2002 Nic began working for Shannon Bennett at the original Vue de Monde in Carlton as his Pastry Chef.  Nic was hungry to be challenged and to learn.  The work Nic produced during this time gave him a desire to return to Europe and revisit his classic French cooking techniques. 

In 2004 Nic moved to London and worked for a short time at Gordon Ramsay's flagship restaurant on Royal Hospital Road.  From here, Nic took on a role as Head Chef in a small boutique Hotel in the Scottish Highlands.  During the years he worked there he was voted 'Rising Star of the Year' by Scottish Hotels Review in 2006.  

In 2007, after a three years wait, Nic was finally offered a position at the 3 Michelin Star restaurant Michel Bras in the South of France.  This prestigious restaurant is only open between April and October every year with overwhelming applications for work from chefs around the world; the restaurant has consistently been listed amongst the top 10 restaurants in the world for many years on the San Pellegrino list. 

On his return to Melbourne, Nic took the position of head pastry chef at Circa the Prince in St Kilda under Matthew Wilkinson. In February 2009 Nic and his wife Tara opened their own restaurant called Embrasse, located on Drummond Street in Carlton.  The philosophy is to create pure, simple and modern dishes that stem from childhood memories of the food Nic grew up with.  He creates these dishes using only the freshest produce sourced locally and by his own hand.

The position at Bras was educational and Nic gained extensive knowledge about herbs & flowers, amongst other things, with particular emphasis on how to use key creative ingredients to enhance dishes. This in depth learning motivated Nic to cultivate an extensive garden at his home and continue foraging in the areas around him. 

Embrasse Restaurant has had a great start, with many notable achievements from their first year in business and beyond:

  • Chef of the Year 2011 by FoodService Australia
  • Chef of the Year 2011 by Restaurant and Catering Association
  • Best European Restaurant 2011 in Victoria by Restaurant and Catering Association
  • The Age Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year 2010
  • One Hat by the Age Good Food Guide 2010,  2011, 2012
  • Both the Victorian and National Best New Restaurant 2010 by Restaurant and Catering Association
  • Nic was personally nominated for Gourmet Traveller Best New Talent 2010

Have you always wanted to be a Chef? 

I started working in the kitchen when I was 14 years old during the school holidays and started my apprenticeship at 15.  My mum is a very good cook and food was always a very family orientated affair; my father was always known to grow his own produce in his garden and my two grandfathers were traders in the local markets.

How would you define your style? Modern French.

Obsessive compulsive about? Herbs & edible flowers.  I forage every day in my local area of Warrandyte and maintain a garden at his home.  It is a bountiful garden for my menu, though tending it also helps to keep me sane.

Your greatest culinary inspirations? The Bras family.

Most “eyebrow raising” menu item? Meli Melo of vegetables, emulsions and purees with home grown herbs and flowers.  This dish is visually stunning and an ever changing expression of seasonality.  It has the added benefit of never being the same; the combination of herbs, flowers and vegetables will always vary, meaning you’ll always have a unique dining experience. 

Signature Dish: The Forest Floor Chocolate Parfait dessert of chocolate mushrooms, forest floor, sorrel mint granita & meringue.  This desert was featured as a Dessert of Melbourne in Oct 2010 and continues to delight our customers with his fairyland presentation and delicate tastes.