Andrew McConnell named chef of the year in The Age Good Food Guide 2015

Jane Holroyd
The winners
The winners 

Here's to the good times. Monday night's launch of The Age Good Food Guide 2015 - the book's 35th edition - was, as ever, a chance to focus on the happy news stories in the world of hospitality.

Melbourne restaurant prodigy Andrew McConnell was recognised as both Citi chef of the year and as chef and proprietor of Victoria's best new restaurant, Supernormal. The CBD pan-Asian eatery opened its doors in May, a couple of weeks after McConnell refashioned St Kilda restaurant Golden Fields into a wine bar, Luxembourg, taking his tally of currently operating - not to mention pumping - venues to seven.

Good Food Guide co-editor Janne Apelgren said it was the third time McConnell had been recognised as chef of the year in his career (2007, 2010). He, along with brother Matthew, first came to the attention of judges in the 2002 edition when they were jointly recognised as the young chefs of the year for their first restaurant, Fitzroy's Diningroom 211.

Dan Hunter, chef at Brae, at Birregurra, is basking in the glory of winning Vittoria Coffee restaurant-of-the-year.
Dan Hunter, chef at Brae, at Birregurra, is basking in the glory of winning Vittoria Coffee restaurant-of-the-year. Photo: Julian Kingma

''[Andrew] McConnell has this innate ability to predict how Melburnians want to eat, even before we know ourselves,'' Apelgren said. ''The restaurants he starts are real leaders and pioneers. We can maybe not thank him for the no-booking craze that followed the opening of Cumulus Inc in 2009, but he's really led the way and a lot of Andrew's dishes are really ingrained in Melbourne diners' minds as their favourite eating in this city - the cracked-wheat salad or baked eggs at Cumulus Inc - for example.

''These dishes have all the love and care that go in at the top end but they're fun without sacrificing service or quality.''

Former Royal Mail Hotel chef Dan Hunter was another grinner. Again the champion for regional Victoria, Hunter's first solo venture, Brae, at Birregurra, donned three hats and was awarded Vittoria Coffee restaurant of the year - joining the ranks of city-based fine diners Attica, Flower Drum and Vue de Monde.

Meanwhile, Neil Perry - whose three Melbourne restaurants Rosetta, Spice Temple and Rockpool Bar & Grill all retained their two hats, became the first chef to accumulate more than 100 hats in the history of the Good Food Guides.