Australian chef Greg Malouf has parted ways with Petersham Nurseries Cafe in Richmond, England – the shabby-chic restaurant that recently retained its Michelin-star status under Malouf's guiding hands.
Petersham Nurseries, a favourite among London's celebrity set, rose to acclaim under the stewardship of another Australian chef, Skye Gyngell.
A spokeswoman for Petersham Nurseries Cafe has been quoted on caterersearch.com saying that the cafe was searching for a new "guest chef" to take over from Malouf, implying his appointment this year was only ever temporary.
Gyngell departed in controversial circumstances in February after telling Good Week-end that the awarding of a Michelin star had made working at Petersham unbearable because it gave rise to unrealistic expectations among diners. Malouf, then based in Australia, was appointed by owners Gael and Francesco Boglione as consultant chef following her departure.
Malouf had previously formed a relationship with Petersham and the Bogliones, having launched one of his acclaimed books at the cafe and having worked there occasionally as a guest chef.
Malouf has made many changes at Petersham in his short stint there, overhauling Gyngell's kitchen staff and installing four Melburnians; Catherine Ashton (head chef), Lucia Corbel (sous chef), Tom Sarafian (senior chef de parte) and Liana Crothers (chef de parte) and slowly introducing his signature Middle Eastern flavours to the menu. At the beginning of October Petersham Nurseries Cafe retained it's Michelin star, with editor of the British guide telling The Age the transition between Gyngell and Malouf had been seamless and that Malouf had put his stamp on the menu.
While in Melbourne last month Malouf told The Age he was in contract negotiations to stay on at the cafe. He said a sticking point was not money, but whether or not he would be granted enough time away from Petersham to make frequent return trips to Australia, where his wife Chalice and her children are based. Malouf is also working on two more books - a cookbook and a travel book - with former wife Lucy Malouf for publisher Hardie Grant. He also said he saw his role at Petersham as a stepping stone and that he would like to open his own restaurant in London in coming years.
However, a spokeswoman for Petersham Nurseries Cafe has been reported as saying yesterday that Malouf's appointment was only ever intended as short-term. "Greg was booked as a guest chef consultant to cover the spring and summer period, a role that he completed with great success," said the spokeswoman.
"The owners, the Boglione family, are very happy with the kitchen team at Petersham all of whom have benefited enormously from the experience of Greg's guest tenure. Petersham is planning to repeat the experience with a different chef and will announce details in due course."
The Age has attempted to contact Malouf, who is credited with introducing Middle Eastern flavours to Melbourne's dining scene during his long and successful stints at restaurants MoMo and O'Connell's.
Meanwhile Melbourne-based chefs have already begun hailing news of his return. Shane Delia from Maha, routinely characterised as having been influenced by Malouf, tweeted last night that it would be great to have Malouf back in Australia and that he was happy to hand back the Middle Eastern crown.