One of Australia and New Zealand’s most respected and instantly recognised chefs, Sean Connolly’s wealth of experience spans the globe. From his apprentice years at the Pennine Hilton in Leeds, to a stint in the kitchens of Cunard’s prestigious QE2, Sean’s formative cooking years marked him out for great things to come. His love for food, though, had incredibly humble beginnings as it was in his Grandma Esther’s West Yorkshire kitchen that he first learnt the joy of cooking. She taught him to be generous and imaginative and, most importantly, to make the kitchen a place of fun and warmth. These traits have stayed with Sean, imbuing everything he does with his trademark, easy-going style and “can-do” approach.
Since making the move to Sydney from his native England in 1988, Sean’s star has continued to rise. Starting with his position as executive chef at Astral restaurant in Sydney’s Star Casino, Sean keeps notching up formidable achievements. Such as being named the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide Chef of the Year in 2008, and the 2009 launch of the casual diner Sean’s Kitchen, in the Star Casino.
In 2009, Sean hosted a 13 part SBS television series called My Family Feast. This was a celebration of Australia’s love affair with multicultural dining and no-fuss, family oriented entertaining. The series won an award for Best TV Show at the 2010 Australian Food Media Awards, plus the Best TV Series About Food and Wine Culture award at the World TV Food & Wine Festival, held in Paris. Sean authored a companion cookbook to the series, also called My Family Feast, which trumped international stars like Nigella Lawson to win Best Celebrity Chef Cook Book In The World at the 2011 Paris Book Fair.
Sean left the Star Casino in 2010 to pursue international opportunities, and tend his burgeoning TV career. In 2011, together with Skycity Auckland, he opened The Grill by Sean Connolly to instant rave reviews. The story of The Grill became a 6 part television documentary called Under The Grill, chronicling all the drama that ensues when a chef opens a 4 million dollar, world-class restaurant within a 100 day deadline. 39% of New Zealand viewers watched the show, making it something of a national phenomenon; discussions are currently underway to film a sequel. In 2012 The Grill won Best Restaurant at the renowned New Zealand Cuisine Magazine Awards. The success of The Grill lead quickly to Sean opening Gusto at The Grand, a rustic Italian eatery that’s drawn accolades from no less than the revered ‘godfather’ of Italian cuisine, Antonio Carluccio.
2012 saw Sean launch his restaurant consulting service; he currently advises to United Cinemas Craigieburn, a $25 million state-of-the-art cinema complex in Melbourne that uniquely boasts in-theatre dining and an art deco-themed Italian restaurant. In the same year, Sean started production of his Chef Sean Connolly products. The range includes premium quality ingredients such as olive oil, duck fat, passata and marinades.
In 2012, Sean opened The Morrison, a sophisticated New York-style restaurant and oyster bar in the heart of the Sydney CBD. The Morrison quickly became a beloved Sydney dining institution, receiving accolades from food critics and pundits alike. In 2015 Sean expanded his business interests into South Australia, opening the aptly named Sean’s Kitchen in the Adelaide casino. A highly personal project, the focus here is squarely on showcasing the outstanding local produce. His latest venture, The Balcony in Byron Bay, opened it’s doors early in 2016 and has already proven to be a significant player, impressing both discerning local diners and Byron Bay’s constant stream of domestic and international visitors.
In 2017 Sean opened Dubai Opera, a contemporary brasserie with a produce-driven menu serving seafood and steak in the main restaurant, the Pearl Bar or rooftop terrace, with impressive views to the Burj Khalifa, Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera combines the chef's Australian and New Zealand influences alongside his humble origins of down-to-earth dining to Downtown Dubai.
Sean remains active in fundraising for worthy causes. Currently he supports the Westpac Rescue Helicopters in New Zealand, and the Eat Strong Play Strong program in Australia, which educates indigenous children in how to eat and cook well. He is available for both public speaking engagements and menu creation for gala events.
Achievements and Milestones
2015 – 1 Chefs Hat NZ Cuisine Good Food Awards
2014 – 2 Chefs Hats NZ Cuisine Good Food Awards
2013 – 2 Chefs Hats NZ Cuisine Good Food Awards
2012 – New Zealand’s Restaurant of the Year Cuisine Magazine
2012 – New Zealand’s Best New Restaurant Cuisine Magazine
2011 – Best Celebrity Chef Cook Book In The World TV & Wine
2010 – Best TV Show Australian Food Media Awards
2008 – Chef of the Year, SMH Herald Good Food Guide Awards
2008 – Chef of the Year, GQ Man of the Year Awards
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 & 2011 – 1 Chef’s Hat, SMH Good Food, for Astral
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2011 1 Star, Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide, for Astral
2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 – Chef of the Year, AHA Awards for Excellence
2007 – Best Restaurant of the Year, AHA NSW Awards (Astral)
2007 – Best Fine Dining Restaurant in a Hotel, Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence NSW & ACT (Astral)
Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera
The Grill by Sean Connolly, Auckland, New Zealand
Gusto at The Grand, Auckland, New Zealand
Sean’s Kitchen, Adelaide, South Australia
The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room, Sydney, New South Wales
The Balcony Bar & Oyster Room, Byron Bay, New South Wales
Current TV Shows (airing in 35 countries)
My Family Feast 2010
Under The Grill 2012
On The Grill 2014
Sean’s Kitchen Adelaide to New York 2015
Sean’s Kitchen Two – available on Seven Plus in Australia