Chef Peter Gilmore circles the Quay, snaring Bennelong Restaurant

"Bennelong is such an incredibly special site that I couldn't pass up the opportunity": Peter Gilmore.
"Bennelong is such an incredibly special site that I couldn't pass up the opportunity": Peter Gilmore. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

Australia mainly knows Peter Gilmore for his snow egg dessert grand final challenge on MasterChef but now he has snared what may be the nation's most iconic chef gig, at the Sydney Opera House's Bennelong Restaurant.

GIlmore had his eye on it literally for at least 13 years.

In 2001 he took over as head chef at Quay Restaurant across the water in the Upper Level of the Overseas Passenger Terminal and carved out quite a niche for himself and the restaurant, taking the Herald's coveted three hats rating for 13 years straight and also being nominated as chef of the year.

Over the years he became renown for beautiful presentation and subtle flavour but it was the 2010 television debut of his snow egg dessert that turbo-charged his celebrity and Quay was booked out until the end of the year.

The Sydney Opera House on Friday announced that Gilmore would take over the Bennelong Restaurant under a 10-year agreement with hoteliers and restaurateurs The Fink Group.

It is the end of a frustrating year-long saga as the Sydney Opera House Trust searched for somebody to run its signature restaurant.

It closed on New Year's Eve when 10-year incumbent chef, Guillaume Brahimi, fled to a new Paddington restaurant after declining to participate in the tender and citingĀ conflicting visions between himself and the trust.

Then the Melbourne-based Van Haandel Group won the tender but that went up in smoke when its flagship Stokehouse restaurant beside St Kilda beach in Melbourne was destroyed by fire in January.

The Sydney Opera House undertook a new, two-stage tender process for Bennelong Restaurant midyear and chef Matt Moran was contracted to run it temporarily as avenue for hire.


Gilmore expects to open next June.

"Bennelong is such an incredibly special site that I couldn't pass up the opportunity," he said.

"I will be celebrating Australian produce from the very tip of Queensland right down to Tasmania and where better than in Australia's most iconic building."

The new Bennelong Restaurant will feature the Gilmore dining experience, a cultured-and-cured section offering oysters, crustaceans and fish, a casual restaurant/bar for pre- and post-show dining, a private dining area and a unique chef's table with harbour views.

It will open every night of the week, plus brunch on Sunday. A lunch service will run from Friday to Sunday.

Sydney Opera House chairman John Symond said: "This is a superb result. We wanted an operator who could deliver a dining experience to match the inspiring setting and that is what we have found. The Opera House is the symbol of modern Australia and their plans for Bennelong embrace Australia's distinctive and diverse produce and cuisine."