Restaurant Awards

Finalists: Restaurant Personality of the Year

The annual awards are back. Here are the charismatic finalists for this year's Restaurant Personality of the Year Award.
Restaurant Personality of the Year finalists

Presenting the finalists for Restaurant Personality of the Year

Next month, we will reveal our winners and the full guide to Australia’s best restaurants at a glamorous gala evening at Catalina in Sydney and in our September issue.

To make sure you receive a copy, delivered to your door, subscribe now at

And the nominees are…

Sarah Baldwin | Joy

Brisbane | QLD

headshot of Sarah Baldwin at Joy in Brisbane
Sarah Baldwin, Joy (Credit: Lauren Hooper)

If you manage to secure a booking at Joy, the intimate 10-seat dégustation-only restaurant, or snag a last-minute cancellation, expect a text confirmation from chef-owner Sarah Baldwin herself. This personal touch extends to the dining experience, where Baldwin personally greets you and exchanges names, before she cooks, plates and entertains as if you’re close friends gathered around her kitchen bench at home. Such interaction is rare, and Baldwin’s ability to keep guests comfortable – and captivated throughout the meal – is a joy to behold.
In short: Heartfelt hospitality.

Lachlan Colwill and Sophie Pope | Omotenashi

Hobart | TAS

Sophie Pope and Lachlan Colwill
Lachlan Colwill and Sophie Pope, Omotenashi

To name your 10-seat restaurant after the Japanese concept of mindful hospitality is one thing; to embody it to its fullest is another. At Omotenashi, Sophie Pope and Lachlan Colwill swap roles between cooking and serving, orchestrating their own scintillating interpretation of kaiseki with uncommon warmth, ease and generosity. Together, they forge what could otherwise be a sterile and self-serious evening into one of the country’s most singular dining experiences – in the back of a luxury car dealership, no less.
In short: A dynamic duo and then some.

Mel Hamilton | Temperance and Fino Seppeltsfield

Renmark and Barossa Valley | SA

Mel Hamilton Restaurant Personality of the Year finalist
Mel Hamilton, Temperance and Fino Seppeltsfield (Credit: Jared Walker)

You know you’re ahead of the game when former GT Restaurant Personality of the Year Sharon Romeo taught you all you know. Ebullient Mel Hamilton is devoted to charming, quality regional dining and as restaurant manager at the Riverland’s new Temperance and as a familiar face at Barossa’s Fino Seppeltsfield, she bounces across the state charming guests with an “all welcome here” approach. Hamilton’s energy extends to her contractor side hustle through which she educates a new generation of hospitality frontliners.
In short: The future is bright thanks to this powerhouse.

Dot Lee | Longshore

Sydney | NSW

Restaurant Personality of the Year finalist Dot Lee of Longshore
Dot Lee (Credit: Will Horner)

Once you bask in the contagious delight Longshore co-owner Dot Lee brings to the restaurant floor, you might have trouble imagining her hospitality career began back-of-house in demanding Sydney kitchens like Ms.G’s and Momofuku Seiōbo. She’s a natural, armed with a Colgate smile and possessed of a knowledge she wears lightly, unpacking dishes and drinks with a sense of eagerness that never wanes. Charisma like this can’t be bottled or sold, but it can – and should – be celebrated.
In short: A ray of sunshine.

Tess Murray | Chauncy

Heathcote | VIC

Restaurant Personality of the Year finalist Tess Murray
Tess Murray, Chauncy (Credit: Leon Schoots)

Tess Murray, already admired and appreciated for her sommelier skills at Supernormal and Cutler & Co, presides over the dining room at Chauncy with a light but steady assuredness. She’s one of those professionals who intrinsically get the art and craft of hospitality – present when needed, well-versed if information is required (her wine communication skills alone deserve applause) but never breaking the flow of conversation. That Murray also grows some of the menu’s produce in the restaurant’s ever-expanding garden is further grounds for admiration.
In short: A delicate touch.

Jae Woods | Le Rebelle

Perth | WA

Jae Woods at Le Rebelle posing seated with a glass of wine
Jae Woods, Le Rebelle

Where’s Jae Woods? Sometimes you’ll find her at Le Rebelle, a lively bistro upholding – and breaking – French traditions. Other nights she’s down the road at Le Reb off-shoot Bar Rogue, a neighbourhood bar fuelled by the same insouciant thinking as the mothership. Wherever she’s at, one thing is certain: Woods’ warmth and energy instantly brighten any evening. And whether she’s recommending dishes, decoding a drinks list or getting you the name of that last Shazam-proof song, Woods’ focus is firmly on the guest.
In short: Helping to make Beaufort Street great again.

Related stories