A week ago, Dan Hunter was dropping hints about his post-Royal Mail plans to a cooking class at Hamilton Island. On Sunday, he cooked at the three-hatted Dunkeld hotel for his last shift after six years as executive chef. He went public yesterday, ending speculation that he would open his own place on the site of George Biron and Diane Garrett's restaurant, Sunnybrae, in Birregurra, 90 minutes' drive west of Melbourne. To be named Brae, the restaurant will be a partnership with the McCorkell Brown Group.
The chef describes Howard McCorkell and Damien Newton-Brown as friends who have a construction and development business as well as farming interests. He says that properties they have renovated include the State Library, St Kilda Pier Kiosk and Heide Gallery. The team has engaged ''regular collaborator'' James Legge, principal of Six Degrees Architects, for the project.
Hunter expects to add accommodation to the 12-hectare site in the new year, and says agricultural production will be intensified on the organic farm, which already has an olive grove, orchard and kitchen garden.
''I want to have something where you go and you're immersed in it for a day or so,'' he says. ''It's a full experience. I think there is room for that in Australia.''
Hunter said yesterday he'd been looking for a restaurant for a couple of years and started negotiations with Sunnybrae owners George Biron and Diane Garrett earlier this year.
He expects to take over the site in mid-August and while he is not ready to talk about staffing for Brae, Hunter said the restaurant should be open in November and bookings could be made from late September.
For his part, Biron has wished Hunter and partners well. "We know Dan and his family will have wonderful times here as Diane and I have had for over 30 years," he told Epicure.
Biron also announced that to make way for the new owners and to usher in their own move towards down-sized living, he and Garrett would be holding a "clearing sale, auction and barbeque" at Sunnybrae on Sunday August 25 from 11am.
Biron promises "30 years of our accumulated paraphernalia" will go under the hammer including "200-plus cookbooks, professional copper, tables, chairs and artwork."
"The State Library has offered to take all the archival material, which is extensive and covers the full history of the property since 1868 ... as well as our activities here since 1976."