Aria restaurant has appointed just its fourth head chef in its 18-year run, snaring Joel Bickford from hatted waterside rival Gantry Restaurant & Bar.
"I think I'm the first head chef here who hasn't come up through the ranks," Bickford says.
Aria undertook a massive redesign last year, and with departing head chef Jason Staudt shifting to the group's latest start-up, Barangaroo House, Bickford says he's been brought on board as an outsider "to put my own spin on it [the menu]".
"It's already a successful restaurant, it's always been up there, they could've sat back on their heels but they want to be better," the incoming chef says.
Bickford could prove to be the missing ingredient in the two-hat restaurant's push to Sydney's dining summit. He and owner Matt Moran certainly share a common ethos. "Matt's from a farming background and I'm from the Blue Mountains and worked at Biota. We both believe in beautiful produce," he says.
Bickford already has a good idea of dishes he'd like to introduce, but his own menu imprint is still four to five weeks away. "The group has plenty of irons in the fire, but when Matt contacted me about having a coffee I didn't think it'd be for Aria."
Moran believes Aria is the perfect fit for Bickford's high-end culinary skills. "His food is amazing, he's one of the best chefs in Sydney. The guy's a talent."