The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2017: Chef of the Year finalists

SMH Chef of the Year finalists 2017.
SMH Chef of the Year finalists 2017. Photo: Supplied

The year's most exciting cooks from some of Sydney's most exciting restaurants

How far away do you think it  is before we have a chef running for Parliament, and who will it be? It makes sense if you think about it. They are agenda setters, original thinkers, often with a social conscience. Actually, scratch that. They would make terrible politicians for those very reasons. So instead, let's concentrate on what they are best at. The contenders for The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Citi Chef of the Year Award are some of the finest in the game, bringing with them a battery of talent and no small amount of experience. They are ever in pursuit of flavour, perfect technique, originality and above all, deliciousness. The winner will be announced tonight (details below).

And the finalists are...

Clayton Wells, Automata

Good Food: Automata at Chippendale.  Head chef Clayton Wells . Photo by Edwina Pickles. Taken on 18th Sept 2015.

If you haven't eaten at Automata yet, best make it your business to. Clayton Wells commands a kitchen dishing out a menu heavily reliant on whatever is passing through that day. So while there are no guarantees of what you'll eat, there is the guarantee it will be innovative without being stupid, spare but not austere and above all, tasty.

Daniel Pepperell, Restaurant Hubert

Restaurant Hubert in Sydney.
Pictured are Jason Scott, Dan Pepperell (chef), Anton Forte, Stefan Forte.
3rd March 2016.
Photo: Steven Siewert

If you never made it to 10 William Street when D. Peps (the tattooed guy in the middle) was making waves wrestling Japanese flavours into traditional Italian dishes, then make a bee-line for Hubert. Here in this dungeon of franco delights, he has created a menu that is as finely tuned in old school French as it is in new school Sydney.

Daniel Puskas, Sixpenny

AFR MAG COVER.  1 Pic of Series of 4 for a Young Chef feature for the food issue of the Fin Mag.  Pic of Dan Puskas from Sixpenny Restaurant in Stanmore.  Photographed at Sun Studios in Alexandria 4th June 2015.  Pic by Nic Walker. Sixpenny Chefs

Quiet ease. Two words that apply as much to the chef as the unassuming little corner restaurant that takes up a small patch of Stanmore. The chef's constant push towards purity and simplicity, stripping dishes bare to get to their essence, is a working project for Puskas – whether that is roasting the perfect duck or hand-making pasta.

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Federico Zanellato, Lumi

Chef Federico Zanellato-LuMi Restaurant. the story is about how japanese food and methods are influencing european foods. Get him with food or doing a japanese technique.29 April 2016. afr photo by Peter Braig.

Is this young Italian 2016's answer to Tetsuya Wakuda? It's not such a long bow, when you look at what he is putting on the plate. Innovative and original, with a distinctly Japanese aesthetic, this is Italian food that breaks rules in all sorts of delicious ways.

Peter Gilmore, Quay

Fiendishly difficult to make ... MasterChef guest judge Peter Gilmore and his cherry jam lamington dessert at Sydney Opera House restaurant Bennelong.

Sydney's reigning master of the rare and strange. His seamless meshing of texture and beauty, packing more flavour on the tip of a needle than most can in an entire tasting menu, Peter Gilmore is operating on levels everyone will enjoy but few will understand.

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide award night, presented by Citi and Vittoria, is on Monday September 5. The guide will be on sale in newsagents and bookstores from Tuesday September 6, with all book purchases receiving free access to the new Good Food app.