Brisbane's top French restaurant, Montrachet, has new owners and plans are afoot to expand the brand by opening a lookalike in mainland China.
Chef-patron Thierry Galichet will step aside at Easter after 11 years at the helm, making way for Shannon Kellam and his wife, Clare, to take over the Lyonnaise-inspired eatery in inner-city Paddington.
Most of the existing staff will continue at the restaurant and Galichet will work part-time alongside Kellam for the remainder of 2015 and supply French wine to Montrachet indefinitely.
Galichet says Montrachet will be his last restaurant and he now plans to concentrate on his successful wine-import business, along with a little consulting work, writing a book and leading wine tours to France.
Kellam, a former executive chef at The Brisbane Club, was Australia's representative at the Bocuse d'Or in January and is the only Australian chef to have competed twice at the biennial competition. He says his aim is to retain the soul of Montrachet but also to give diners new reasons to fall in love with the restaurant. Financial backers offered to custom-build a restaurant anywhere in Australia, but his heart was set on Montrachet.
"I'm buying Montrachet for Montrachet," Kellam says. "I don't want to change the way the restaurant operates, but I need an outlet for my style of food and that outlet will be on Friday nights."
A weekly ticketed $95 dégustation is planned to showcase Kellam's more progressive style of cooking, with Montrachet signatures - from steak frites to soufflé and snails - on the menu for the rest of the week. The restaurant will remain closed on Saturday nights.
"It will just be my food and my creations on Friday night and I'll be creating new dishes each week."
In May, Kellam's former apprentice Olivia Meli, currently sous-chef at The Brando resort in French Polynesia, will join the kitchen as chef de cuisine. Meli has been working in France for the past five years, with stints at Joël Robuchon in Monte Carlo and three Michelin-starred restaurant Flocons de Sel in Megève.
"I want to be an Australian chef who is achieving Michelin stars, if all goes to plan, at a second Montrachet in mainland China," Kellam says.
Montrachet, 224 Given Tce, Paddington, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3367 0030