Michelle Garnaut AO

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Australian born Michelle Garnaut is one of the most respected and recognised restaurateurs in Asia and was described by Time magazine as “an industry celebrity” as well as “the pioneer of China’s fashionable-dining scene”. With over 30 years’ experience covering every facet of the service industry, from dish washing to cooking, from waiting tables to bar tending, from marketing to management, Michelle founded the M Restaurant Group in Hong Kong in 1989 to represent her vision of the all-inclusive dining experience.

As passionate as Michelle is about the restaurant industry, she is equally dedicated to giving back and making a difference with causes that are close to her heart. Her philanthropic work reaches beyond the cities where the restaurants are based into communities in rural China and her homeland of Australia. Michelle is co-founder of The Village People Project which aims to improve the lives and health of villagers in rural China through the creation of solar powered community or individual bathhouses.    

Over the years Michelle has actively led and managed the restaurants’ cultural events program, the Shanghai International Chamber Music Competition & Festival and Literary Festivals in Shanghai & Beijing, as well as numerous charity and community projects. As a successful female entrepreneur, Michelle is also eager to support initiatives that empower women in their local communities. She was a founding judge for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards (established in 2007) and Asia Jury President in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, she initiated the community-based project Beijing Mentorwalks, which brings together established and emerging women leaders to connect, learn, mentor and share experiences. She brought the walks to Shanghai in 2015. Michelle is also a Global Ambassador for Vital Voices, acts on numerous boards and advisory boards, including SAA Smart Agriculture Analytics, Koraid, Advance and other not-for-profit bodies.

In recognition of her diverse professional and charitable contributions, Michelle has been honoured with many international awards, including Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2003 International Woman of Influence Awards, and the Business Entrepreneurial Award at the 1999 ANZ Australian Business Awards.

In September 2015, she received the inaugural award in Food at the Advance Global Australian Awards. This is the only award of its kind that recognises the contributions of the one million Australians living abroad, and those who have returned home.

We spoke with Michelle alongside executive chefs Gary Martin and Hamish Pollitt about their collective experiences working in the hospitality industry in China, click here to read the article. 

Meet Michelle Garnaut, the 2015 Advance Global Australian Food & Agriculture Award Winner. Watch the 'New Women, New Men, New Economy' panel featuring Michelle, at the 2015 Advance Global Australian Summit and her 2015 Advance Global Australian Award Acceptance Speech below.