A doctor's calling

Double duty: Dr David Maccora.
Double duty: Dr David Maccora. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Every job has its moments. But not every worker faces the heavy responsibilities of Dr David Maccora, a man to whom many a Melburnian entrusts two cherished assets: life and food.

An emergency doctor at Malvern's Cabrini Hospital four out of seven days a week, Maccora moonlights as the man behind famed Ripponlea restaurant Attica, which last month arrived at No.21 (with a bullet) in the prestigious San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurant list.

His two passions offer stark contrast - from dealing with cardiac arrest patients to answering mayday calls from his star chef , Ben Shewry, when equipment fails at 5pm before a fully booked Friday-night service.

David Maccora accepting a Good Food Guide award with Attica manager Banjo Harris Plane.
David Maccora accepting a Good Food Guide award with Attica manager Banjo Harris Plane. Photo: Eddie Jim

A hospitality novice, Maccora bought the restaurant as part of a property development foray with his wife, Helen. The son of a fruit shop owner and brother to a chef, he had little inkling of what would come next when ideas of a simple takeover were swiftly dumped in favour of a full restaurant redevelopment.

Things were looking dire after two chefs employed in quick succession failed to draw the crowds. Enter Shewry, and the cliche of ''third time lucky'' proves true.

''He won TattsLotto in a big way,'' hospitality consultant Tony Eldred says, referring to Attica's big win in the context of the restaurant being owned by a first-time restaurateur. "I don't know anyone who isn't a full (restaurant) owner who is not a professional restaurateur who is likely to stay in business for more than three weeks."

Figures from the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association support Eldred's view. Chief executive John Hart says the industry body's latest report shows 77.4 per cent of restaurant owners have been in the industry for more than 10 years.

''We have a 20 per cent churn factor - meaning 20 per cent of businesses go out of business every year and I would suggest there are quite a number within that group who are first-time operators,'' Hart says.

But for Shewry, Maccora's success - and Attica's staying power - comes as little surprise.

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''He's a guy who just looks out for others,'' Shewry says. ''He looks after them physically as a doctor and then mentally and soulfully as a restaurateur.

''And the highly technical and research sides of being a doctor have set him in good stead for the challenges of running a highly technical and high-maintenance restaurant.''

It is, after all, Maccora who used his science smarts to pull together the restaurant's first high-tech piece of equipment - the rotor evaporator - after Shewry presented him with a photograph of molecular chef extraordinaire Heston Blumenthal and his own version of the machine.

Maccora and a carpenter friend are also building the Attica test kitchen next door.

As if, he smiles, there isn't already enough on his plate.

In the end, Maccora views Attica as a family affair that provides an outlet from the rigours of his day job.

When questioned as to how many "family affairs" are positioned in the top 50 of the world's best restaurants, he laughs … then heads back to the emergency ward.