Meet Fionán Gunn — Head Chef of Shutters and Estate, Coogee.

A Dublin native, having worked in the culinary industry for over 10 years, Fionán has a career spanning the world – from Dublin, throughout Europe and now Australia.

Tell us a little bit about your industry history

I moved to Australia around 5-years ago to work for Matthew Butcher and haven’t looked back.

I am very grateful for the opportunities Matthew has given me over the years as part of the ETO Collective group, having worked for him at Mr and Mrs P and Yugo in Melbourne before relocating to Sydney to take over Estate and Shutters.

Previously to my move to Oz, I was at Amuse restaurant (Dublin) for 2 years as junior CDP and worked up to Sous Chef. It was a very refined dining venue. I was really into this cooking style when I was younger, with my primary experience with Modern French. I loved to mix French cooking techniques with Japanese flavours.

Now working at Estate and Shutters, I’m more into casual plating and style of food, bringing the ingredients to the forefront. I think there is something perfect about the simplicity of fresh seafood and garnishes.

Obsession ingredient?  

I’ve just finished the new menu for Estate, and I have become obsessed with a new cured salmon dish with pastrami rub – it is next-level good. The new menu also helped rekindle my love for dulce de leche – who isn’t a little obsessed with this?

Where did your love of food come from?

My mama. Some of my earliest memories were with her in the kitchen. Peeling garlic was my main job, with mum and I just hanging out in the kitchen as we chatted about our days. 

What might be surprising to people is I was vegetarian for 12 years and only developed my love for burgers and steak in the last couple of years, so I was all about how you can make veggies the hero. My mama’s eggplant lasagne is a dish that always holds a special place in my heart, which is why I love that sense of nostalgia that food evokes. Nothing makes me happier than creating a delicious meal and seeing how it brings joy to other people. Food has a way of bringing people together.

What has stuck with you as being key to becoming a great Chef?

1. The ability to slow down in an environment that requires you to speed up all the time. I constantly work to teach my team the virtues of patience and slowing down so they can make better decisions in the rush of everything.

2. Always be open to learning more and sharing that knowledge. Self-education is crucial, and I’m constantly striving for improvements. I love to consume content for inspiration – whether it’s reading books, photos, podcasts, you name it! I also think that to be a great leader, you need to take the time to mentor and impart your expertise to others, so I make it a point to share as much as possible with my team.

3. Mistakes aren’t bad, as long as you are learning from them. Life is full of mistakes, some of which helped me achieve some of my greatest successes.

Recommendations for favourite place to eat in Australia

Australia has many amazing restaurants, so it is hard to call out just a couple, but these are my favourites:

Leonard’s House of Love – a burger joint run by Nick Stanley in Melbourne. Their double cheeseburger and fried chicken are out of this world. I love the chilled vibe of the place – it is a place where you can relax with friends over a burger & beer, plus it is dog friendly!

Restaurant Hubert – I love the dining room to go for a romantic dinner with my fiancé. From the wine selection to the steak, it is the perfect venue and a must-visit if you visit Sydney. Plus, it brings me back to my time in Europe with the décor.

McGill Hill Estate – If I am ever in Adelaide this is a must-visit.

Plus, a special mention to Ronnie’s in Melbourne. I love this place for a good authentic NY-style Italian feast from Chef Anthony Dispensa, who I am looking forward to working more closely with in the future. 

How do you relax and unwind?

I am fortunate that I live near the beach in Coogee, so for me, it is going for a walk every morning with my dog Harvey. I love to play ball with him – he is such a rascal, and it helps me feel at peace and ready to take on a busy day in the kitchen.

What’s the secret to a great kitchen?

Respect and leadership will help you achieve something special in the kitchen. How I operate is very different from how I was treated as a young chef going through the ranks. While the kitchen hierarchy is important, everyone is different and requires a different management approach. I treat each team member differently to help get the best out of them.

What’s the one cooking implement/device you could not live without

A Thermomix!

What’s your favourite food?

It all depends on what mood I am in. For casual eats, I love to make a burger or if I am making a nice dinner, a good quality steak is always a winner.

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