Losses cut deep as chefs deal with lost hats

Andrew Hornery
Dropped a hat: Mark Best's restaurant <i>Marque</i>.
Dropped a hat: Mark Best's restaurant MarquePhoto: Marco Del Grande

The price of being a celebrity chef in a city obsessed with food can be a hefty one. Especially when you are surrounded by 500 of your peers in a cut-throat industry known for its egos as much as its culinary wizardry.

Just ask chefs Mark Best and Peter Doyle.

All eyes were on them when it emerged their much celebrated restaurants, Marque and est respectively, had dropped one of three "chefs hats" at the 2014 Good Food Guide launch in Sydney on Monday night.

Best was visibly upset, took a phone call and knocked back a glass of wine.

The room went silent when Peter Doyle's est lost its hat, the chef no doubt joining in with Best in commiseration.

Their losses ranked as the biggest upsets at the Good Food Guide 2014 launch, up there with Tetsuya Wakuda losing his third hat three years ago.

The crew from Porteno, with their rock star attitude and uber cool hair cuts, were the kings of the kitchens in 2011, but this year they came unstuck, Porteno now relegated from two hats to one.

Matt Moran of Aria fame did not attend to see his Woollahra restaurant Chiswick, the toast of the town 12 months ago, lose its sole hat. Aria retained its two hats in this year's guide.

Moran tweeted just a few hours before the event, declaring it was only the second time in 20 years he had missed it, instead opting for the solitude of Kangaroo Valley.


For nearly two decades Otto Ristorante at Woolloomooloo has dominated Sydney's power lunches, but it too lost its sole hat, as did Black by Ezard, A Tavola and 4Fourteen.

But while some of the industry's biggest stars were left to lick their wounds, a new batch of heroes bathed in the spotlight at The Star.

Sepia was named Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year, awarded three hats for the third consecutive year. It was the second time the restaurant had taken out the title since 2009.

“Chef Martin Benn is an amazing creator of texture and flavour, and a leader who inspires,” Good Food Guide editor Joanna Savill said.

And while Justin Hemmes lost a hat at est, his loss was soothed somewhat by the victory of his multi-million-dollar venture Mr Wong, which was awarded best new restaurant, a gong Savill described as “thoroughly deserved, for the way it has captured our hearts, minds and stomachs”.

Another star on the ascent was Ross Lusted, the chef from The Bridge Room, who was named the Citi Chef of the Year.

“Ross is a trailblazer,” Savill said. “He's almost obsessive in his expertise and has created a new landmark on the dining landscape.”