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Australia's chef rubs Salt into Japan

From the confines of Sydney's Salt restaurant, Luke Mangan has turned himself into a brand, appearing on Australian television and hosting everyone from Tom Cruise to tycoon Richard Branson and royalty.

by: Rob Taylor | 15 Aug 2007

Mangan, who helped define so-called Mod Oz food and European-Asian fusion, fell into cooking after being booted out of school at 15 for throwing paper at a teacher.

But now the celebrity chef behind the citadel of Sydney restaurant cool is taking his talents internationally with a Salt restaurant in central Tokyo.

"The decor and food will reflect the best of Australia such as our beautiful sunsets and wave-like curves," Mangan said about his new restaurant.

Mangan, 36, learned French technique under Michel Roux at the three Michelin star Waterside Inn in Berkshire, England, but built his A$8 million restaurant (R48 million ) chain after starting as head Chef of the trendy Hotel CBD in Sydney in 1996. In 2003, he opened Moorish Restaurant and Bar at the northern end of Bondi Beach, blending Spanish and North African styles. Two years later, he opened Glass with a three-story wine cellar at Sydney's Hilton.

Cookbooks and television slots followed, along with columns in major newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne, which is fighting a rearguard action to become Australia's food capital. And then there are car and fashion endorsements, and 10 days in the Caribbean with Branson to advise on a Virgin Airlines menu. He also cooked for the Danish royal wedding.

"I'm a pretty simple guy, I rock around in a pair of jeans and a ripped shirt and go to the pub and order a steak with chips and tomato sauce. I don't think there's any pretence about me," Mangan said recently.

Mangan's restaurants aim to mix simplicity with style in a blend he describes as "friendly but not stuffy". I think that's what Australian cuisine and service is all about. It has a bit of cheekiness to it and friendliness, and I hope the Japanese will understand," he told Australian media.

"The Tokyo-based Salt will have eight Australian chefs in the kitchen out of a total of 15. I'd like to have at least five Japanese chefs, and possibly another two Aussies," Mangan said. Mangan also wants to open restaurants in the US including Hawaii and New York, as well as Singapore.

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