Neil Perry parlayed Rockpool into Burger Project. Maha's Shane Delia opened kebab outlet Biggie Smalls. Now Shannon Bennett, whose Melbourne restaurant Vue de Monde regained its third hat in the latest Age Good Food Guide, is joining the fast food business.
He's been trialling Benny Burger at Sydney International Airport since April and, since getting the thumbs-up from diners, he has three more Melbourne "ethical burger" outlets in the works: one at 430 Little Collins Street (due to open in early December) followed mid-2017 by burger joints at 95 Swan Street, Richmond, and on the ground floor of the Rialto in Collins Street.
Bennett's burger chain has an unlikely starting point: Bennett's father, "who can't cook a thing to save himself" – other than a decent burger.
Bennett's menu uses organic grass-fed beef from Queensland, french fries made from yukon gold potatoes grown in Gembrook, and Schulz organic milk shakes.
The burger chain is one of several projects Bennett is juggling next year. He's planning to write his own LA story, a smokehouse restaurant with Singapore's Far East Group.
American chef Justin James, until recently head chef at Vue de Monde and now a business partner, will return to the US in January to begin work on the restaurant, expected to open late 2017. Nobu Nan Lee, a former Vue de Monde alumnus who headed Sydney's Marque kitchen before it closed in June, returns to Vue de Monde next month to replace James.
Bennett also has a whisky bar in the works that's so carefully hidden you'll need special directions from reception to find it. Bennett says the bar, kitted out in leather and brass, will operate like a club, with regulars keeping their favourite tipples in private lockers. The drinks list will draw on whisky from Scotland, Australia and Japan. It's tipped for an April opening.
And if that's not enough to keep him occupied, Bennett is waiting on state government approval in January to redevelop Burnham Beeches into a boutique hotel, a project delayed for eight years by local objections. If approved, work on the 48-suite hotel would get under way in April.
Meanwhile, Neil Perry opened his second Melbourne Burger Project outlet last week at Chadstone Shopping Centre's new dining terrace with a large open kitchen and seating for 120.