It seems impossible that Hugh Allen has not yet hit 30. His career, which started at 15 when he began working as an apprentice at Rockpool, has encompassed a multitude of experiences, accolades and television appearances. So many they seem as if they should belong to someone less fresh-faced. Now we can add another to that list: being named GT's Chef of the Year, not by us (though we wholeheartedly embrace the verdict) but by the Australian chefs who vote to decide this award every year. Let's think about that; his peers have overwhelmingly named Hugh Allen, not yet 30 years old, as their choice for Chef of the Year.
Possibly one of the toughest jobs Allen has faced in a career that has included a three-year stint at the high-pressure Noma (including its Sydney and Mexican pop-ups), was to remake Vue de Monde in his own image. The Melbourne dégustation-only fine-diner perched 55 storeys above the city was almost inseparably connected with its founding owner and chef Shannon Bennett and was where Allen worked as Bennett's protégé for three years before heading to Copenhagen.
When he returned to Australia in 2018, he also returned to Vue and the following year he was promoted to executive chef when Bennett finally left the building. The succeeding years have seen some Bennett-era Vue classics retain their spot on the dégustation menu (the palate-cleansing stalwart of liquid nitrogen-frozen petals ground to dust with a mortar and pestle at the table before being teamed with fennel sorbet among them) but they're increasingly making way for Hugh Allen originals, many of which reflect his growing fascination with Australian native ingredients.
Now, in a statement-making move, Vue de Monde is undergoing a three-million-dollar facelift that will see the restaurant closed for two months and a whole new kitchen – designed with Allen's direct involvement – installed. It's definitive changing-of-the-guard stuff and for fans of Allen, of which there are many judging by his Chef of the Year win, it means exciting times ahead as he renews one of Melbourne's most famous and expensive restaurants.
Given the awards and critical acclaim his cooking, an assured and precise blending of modern and classic technique, have received thus far, this new season of the Vue de Monde show is shaping up to be one of the best yet. Here's hoping this Chef of the Year award adds a little more wind beneath his wings.
To see the full list of winners in this year's Gourmet Traveller Annual Restaurant Awards, head over here.