Michael Fox: an Aussie chef hits the ground running upon returning home

Michael Fox returned to Sydney in 2017 following 2 years working in Hong Kong spicing up the city’s culinary scene as head chef of  ‘Carbone’, a New York-Italian cuisine under the management of Black Sheep Restaurants Group.

His decision to work in Hong Kong was just one on Michael’s international journey.

As the award winner of The Age’s “Good Food Guide” Young Chef of the Year in 2011, Michael is always on the lookout for new adventures. He honed his skills at the two Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in the UK before making his mark in Hong Kong.

Returning home with fresh ideas and impressive skills, Michael has taken the helm at Merivale’s restaurant Sushi e, embarking on another exciting journey.

He spoke to Advance to share his international culinary experiences.

What attracted you to go to Hong Kong for work? How was the experience?

I was offered a role in Hong Kong with Black Sheep Restaurants to head up their outpost of the New York institution ‘Carbone’. The attraction to move to Hong Kong was obviously to work in such a prestigious restaurant within a great group, but also immerse myself in another culture. Hong Kong is such a great melting pot.

It was a great experience and one that is very attractive to future employers on the resume. Work-life balance is a lot more demanding in Hong Kong but that’s all part and parcel of the experience.

What’s the main difference in the hospitality industry between Hong Kong and Australia?

Completely different. Hong Kong is all about imported ingredients, imported chefs, and opulence. In Australia, it’s about using locally-sourced food, cooked in a simple way, served in a casual setting. All of the big industry players operate outposts in Hong Kong. The city has such a great mix of local restaurants intertwined with high-end eateries.

Having worked in various places outside Australia, what’s your favourite overseas work experience?

I still treasure my experience of living and working in the UK. I was 21 years old and working at a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Oxfordshire called Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. It was a very hard work environment but one that I relished. It helped shape me into the chef that I am today. There was no compromising, only the highest quality was ever good enough.

You left Hong Kong in 2017 and returned to Australia.What triggered that decision?

I wanted a change. I think that Hong Kong is good for a moment in your life, very few international chefs stay for more than a couple of years. I was offered a great role with Merivale so it was a bit of a no-brainer for me.

How does your overseas work experience help to advance your career?

Working overseas benefits my career hugely. It has definitely advanced my people management skills. Working with staff from different cultures and beliefs can be a challenge but also massively rewarding. Working for and alongside different chefs has been a big benefit and has had a great influence on my cooking and management style.

What’s your next move?

I have taken on a role with Merivale, running their one-hat Japanese restaurant Sushi e in Sydney.