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Celebrity Spotlight: George Calombaris
Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 3, No. 3 - May/June 2011

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How did you first become involved in the hospitality industry?

My first job was when I was 16 years of age. I worked at my local pasta restaurant washing pots and pans.

What quick and easy recipe do you recommend for parents on the go?

Fresh eggs are a great ingredient to have in your pantry. A simple omelette with fresh herbs and parmesan with some toasted sourdough, and you have a great meal.

What is your favourite family recipe?

My mum's egg and lemon soup is full of flavour and soul! See recipe on opposite page. Click here to download recipe.

Where do you get your recipe inspirations from?

I am inspired by lots of things including nostalgia as well as family, travel, the earth, my staff and my colleagues.

What have you learnt from working with both the adult and junior contestants from Masterchef?

The kids listen and follow processes. The adults like to do what they want at times.

What are your top 10 tips for aspiring chefs?

  1. You must first love to cook
  2. You must cook from only one place, the heart
  3. Commitment & dedication
  4. Respect for yourself & others
  5. Respect your craft & where the produce comes from
  6. Punctual & on time
  7. Be a leader not a follower
  8. Don't copy, but do use influences & when you do, pay homage to where these came from
  9. Tasting is the most important lesson when cooking
  10. Don't be afraid to make mistakes - be afraid if you don't learn from them

You have cooked in some amazing places. Can you tell us about your favourite?

I have had an amazing life so far. My job has taken me all over the world cooking - from an Indian castle, to Valentino's Yacht in Venice. I have cooked on the river banks in Germany and in a two star Michelin in Athens. I don't have a favourite; all my experiences have touched my heart and will be part of my life diary forever. I AM VERY LUCKY AND GRATEFUL EVERYDAY! 

Have you ever experienced a cooking disaster? Please tell us about it.

Ahhh. We had just opened The Press Club in 2006 and I was running the fish section. Back then we only had seven chefs; now we have around 25. So we were in the middle of service and I went to carve some salmon and didn't realise there was a power cord plugged in on my bench. I cut through it and zapped myself onto the ground. Looking back, very funny!

What benefits are there for exposing children to culinary activities?

Understanding where food comes from and how it grows, including how to cook and taste everything is so important to their social upbringing. "FOOD IS FAMILY, FAMILY IS LIFE, LIFE IS EVERYTHING"

How can involving kids in the kitchen develop their communication skills?

It all starts in the home. Parents, like mine did, need to unite family through food. Doesn't matter if it's baking bread, it's about understanding what happens when you add yeast to flour and then the celebration of breaking the bread with you family.

Do you believe there is a connection between healthy eating and educational achievement?


What are the top 5 ways for encouraging kids into the kitchen?

It all starts in the home and with the parents:

  1. Don't be afraid of them using a knife, just make sure you supervise them
  2. Give them a weekly task e.g. they can cook a different style of eggs every Saturday morning for the family
  3. Get them to grow their own herbs & vegetables - from there let them cook them
  4. Taste is so important - get them to taste everything you cook
  5. Fresh is best - teach them that only fresh is best

Please tell us about your family

Big, crazy, loud and we love food and life.

What are your hobbies?

Food is my hobby. I love to cook, eat, talk and read about food.

What is your most unforgettable personal experience?

When I found out that Natalie and I were going to become parents. OMG!

What are your favourite holiday destinations and why?

Greece - I am inspired by the whole country but at the end of the day I am a very proud Aussie and I love home.


George completed his apprenticeship under Raymond Capaldi at Hotel Sofitel, Melbourne. Later he was part of a team who opened Fenix.

He entered one of the Moffat sponsored culinary competitions, the Bocuse d'Or in Lyon, France, achieving a best ever result for an Australian representative.

He spent two years working at Reserve, in Melbourne's Federation Square. At the age of 24, he won Young Chef of the Year, Best New Restaurant and two chef's hats in The Age Good Food Guide.

In 2004, the Global Food and Wine Magazine voted him as one of the Top 40 chefs of influence in the world.

In 2006 Calombaris opened his own restaurant in Melbourne, The Press Club. In 2008, he opened 2 other restaurants in Melbourne, Maha Bar and Grill and Hellenic Republic.

The Press Club, was awarded The Age Good Food Guide "Best New Restaurant 2008" with Calombaris named "Chef of the Year 2008".

In 2008, he opened his first international restaurant, Belvedere, in a hotel on the Greek island of Mykonos.

He has published two cookbooks "The Press Club" and his second cookbook "Hellenic Republic: Greek Cooking from The Hellenic Heart".

George is a familiar face on household television. He is one of the three judges in Channel Ten's reality TV show Masterchef Australia.

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Get Ahead Kids® May/Jun 2011

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