Chef Esca Khoo leaves Miss Mi at Melbourne's Movenpick Hotel

Chef Esca Khoo says he's on a mission to introduce Australian-style dining to Asia.
Chef Esca Khoo says he's on a mission to introduce Australian-style dining to Asia. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

The wild ride continues for chef Esca Khoo, who recently departed Miss Mi at the Movenpick Hotel opposite Southern Cross Station.

Khoo came to sudden attention in the latter half of 2021 for his detailed, delicious, genre-bending take on contemporary Asian-Australian cuisine. Creative dishes such as reimagined Vietnamese banh xeo and kangaroo skewers with Vegemite glaze, macadamia satay and avocado smash, served as part of a generous tasting menu, thrilled Good Food reviewers and earned Miss Mi a chef's hat.

In the end, the strictures of running a 50-seat hotel dining room plus room service were not a good fit for the young chef, who wants to cook in a more personal setting.

Khoo introduced Miss Mi diners to kangaroo skewers with Vegemite glaze.
Khoo introduced Miss Mi diners to kangaroo skewers with Vegemite glaze. Photo: Eddie Jim

"It all happened so fast," says Khoo. "I wasn't even hired at Miss Mi as a head chef – I came in as sous [second in charge]. I guess if you really believe in what you're doing, things can happen."

Born in Malaysian Borneo, Khoo came to Australia 15 years ago and rose through the ranks at Noma Sydney and Dinner by Heston. He is now planning a return to Asia. "I will be there flying the Australian flag as much as I'm flying the Malaysian flag here," he says. "The Melbourne style of hospitality is one of the best in the world. I'll take our vibe to Asia."

Meantime, Khoo is planning pop-ups with some of his favourite Melbourne food identities. Events include an Indonesian exploration at Makan, a Chinese-Italian feast at Hardware Club, Asian pub food at the Lincoln Hotel, and food of lesser-known Asian islands with Sri Lankan chef Gayan Pieris at Polperro on the Mornington Peninsula.

"Australia will always be home for me," says Khoo. "I have momentum right now. I want to give it a go in Asia before I come back and settle in Melbourne."

Miss Mi continues with a pan-Asian a la carte menu.