merely sustenance or work, it’s a rel
James Calombaris is proud of his dad and wanted to take a friend to Gazi, one of his father’s Melbourne restaurants, for lunch. “Have you booked?” asked George Calombaris, of Masterchef fame, when James revealed his plans over breakfast. He hadn’t.
“I said ‘James, if you don’t make a booking, you are not getting a table.’”
Calombaris’ partner Natalie raised her eyebrows. James is five years old and still at pre-school. Nevertheless, following his father’s instructions, he picked up the phone and booked. “That for me is a little lesson,” says Calombaris. “I want him to understand the value of life like I was taught. It’s about working hard. Nothing comes on a platter for him. There is no golden spoon.”
Calombaris, 38, is nothing if not a hard worker, but he is propelled by something more than that – a relentless, restless energy that makes him fuss over every detail, from the menus in his restaurants to the tidiness of the serving areas and even the direction of the toilet paper. He doesn’t walk so much as bounce. “People say, ‘Why do you bounce so much?’” he says. “I need to. It’s my energy.”
For someone who doesn’t read books and limits his staff to five emails a day – “Just pick up the phone and ring!” – Calombaris has become one of the most successful restaurateurs in the country, expanding his empire as other celebrity chefs’ collapse. The Melburnian oversees 12 eateries, from the high-end Press Club to souvlaki chain Jimmy Grants, which recently expanded to the Gold Coast. His ambition is to emulate Merivale boss