• Stylish and cosy, Montrachet welcomes guests for a French feast (Montrachet)
From competing in the culinary equivalent of the Olympic Games to taking on Brisbane institution Montrachet, chef Shannon Kellam isn’t afraid of a challenge.
By
Siobhan Hegarty

12 Jun 2017 - 10:58 AM  UPDATED 12 Jun 2017 - 11:12 AM

+ For French culinary success, check out Shannon's ultimate tips + 

For those familiar with Brisbane’s dining scene, the name ‘Montrachet’ will ring a bell. Opened by Lyon-born chef Thierry Galichet and wife Carol in 2003, the bistro – which shares its name with a Chardonnay-producing vineyard in Burgundy – was beloved for its French charm, classic dishes and truly impressive wine list.   

Of course, even dynamic duos like the Galichets cannot run a restaurant forever. Having spent 35 years in the industry, Thierry began pondering retirement and shoring up plans for his successor at Montrachet.

Enter Shannon Kellam.

“2011 was the first time Terry asked if I’d be the one to take it over,” says Shannon, now chef-owner of Montrachet. “I had to wait until I was coming home and retiring from the competition circuit in February 2015.”

 

That ‘competition circuit’ is known as Bocuse D’or, the culinary world’s answer to the Olympic Games. Held every two years in Lyon, the competition draws thousands of chefs from around the world, many of whom have spent months, even years training for the event. Competing in 2008 and again in 2012, Shannon says he spent the best part of 10 years training for the “biggest gastronomic event in the world”.

“I represented Australia in the world final twice,” says Shannon. “It’s rare thing – to do it twice. It’s such a big commitment on your family and earning capacity.”

And so, Thierry Galichet’s offer to take the reins of Montrachet presented a career shift that Shannon and wife Clare were ready for.

“[Montrachet was an] iconic dining room in Brisbane, so the transition plan had to be very smart and careful,” he recalls of the changing hands in April 2015.

“There are 300 wines on our list, and 90 percent [are] directly imported from France.”

“Some classical dishes we didn’t take off [the menu], like the crab and gruyère soufflé, and the steak frites – Montrachet was very famous for that dish.”

Other aspects of the menu have received a shake up. Committed to cooking as seasonally as possible – and with the best produce available –  Shannon changes a handful of dishes each fortnight, depending on what his farming and fishing contacts can offer.

“A lot of produce is flown up, we pick it up ourselves from an airport or meet a farmer that’s coming to down for market on a particular day,” he explains. “[For example with] hand-dived scallops from Kangaroo Island, they only pick 20 or 30 dozen and our allocation is half of that. We’re in contact with the catchers all time letting them know what we need.”

“Most of vegetables I source from the market myself,” he adds. “I’ve built relationships with [farmers], so they’ll grow things for me; pick things at a certain time. For example, the parsnips are picked young so they’re not too fibrous.”

Perhaps it is due to his competitive cooking background that Shannon takes such a meticulous approach to all facets of cooking. He’s first in the kitchen at six o’clock each morning (baking the baguettes and brioches) and unlikely to leave before midnight.

“You need a lot of drive to do that everyday,” he admits. “But if you want to do it, that’s half the battle.”

Drive is a characteristic Shannon Kellam and Thierry Galichet share. Although Thierry has now retired from restaurant life, he still contributes to Montrachet’s magical wine list.

“We import 20,000 bottles a year,” notes Shannon. “The old owner Thierry works on that with us. [The list is] his creation of many years’ work, travelling and fighting for allocations.

“There are 300 wines on our list, and 90 percent [are] directly imported from France.”

For a French bistro named after a Grand Cru vineyard with some of the finest Chardonnays in the world, we wouldn’t expect any less.

 

Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? The Chefs' Line airs 6pm weeknights on SBS. Check out the program page for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more.

 

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