Deservedly, Justin Wise was named the 2009 Young Chef of the Year in The Age’s annual Good Food Guide Awards.
Determination and a continuous quest to be ‘the best he can be’ has been a constant driver for Justin throughout his career. His mother, one of his great influences, had immigrated to Australia from the Ukraine during the Second World War and upon marriage to his father, an Australian, operated hotels in Wangaratta and Jerilderie.
At an early age Justin apprenticed himself to Executive Chef Peter Hoppach, who had made a name for himself in north-eastern Victoria at his Wangaratta restaurant, Peter Cellar 47. On completing his Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Hospitality in 2001, Justin made his way to Melbourne to pursue his desire to work in Melbourne’s best restaurants.
Following a short stint in a Malvern café, he commenced work at Reserve, a new and glamorous restaurant on the upper level of Federation Square. Head chef George Calombaris was new ‘enfant terrible’ on the Melbourne food scene with his experimental molecular gastronomy, so Justin was immediately confronted by, and became accomplished in this new food trend. When Reserve abruptly closed, he moved with Calombaris to Fenix on the banks of the Yarra with chef Raymond Capaldi. Capaldi cleverly combined classic French cuisine with molecular influences and became an important influence and mentor for Justin. His initial apprenticeship and training had been in classic French food, his time at Fenix coalesced this training into a devout love of French food and classic methods.
After leaving Fenix, he spent time at No 1.Fitzroy Street and helping mates at Sapore while waiting for The Press Club to open, taking the position of Sous Chef in 2006 before quickly becoming Head Chef.
His support of Calombaris at this time included collaborating on The Press Club cookbook, representing the restaurant at the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore and assisting in the opening of The Belvedere Club in Mykonos, Greece.
Wishing to again pursue his love of French cuisine, Justin accepted the position of senior sous chef to open Maze at Crown Metropol with Gordon Ramsay protégé Josh Emett. At its peak, Maze was serving 350 covers a night. Perhaps due to its size, or the adverse publicity surrounding Ramsay at the time, Maze closed in 2011.
With the departure of Head Chef Scott Pickett from The Point Albert Park, Justin Wise was sought out and offered the position of Executive Chef. This was the goal he had been working towards – an opportunity to stamp his own personality on a restaurant of significance.
At The Point Albert Park, Justin has free reign to follow his food passions of reinterpreting historic dishes using French techniques. He is justifiably proud of his sauces and believes they are integral to a dish, “the careful use of sauces unify the other ingredients on the plate – they marry the components in an intimate manner.” He also embraces his heritage and his mother’s legacy; featured on The Point’s current menu is a reinvention of her quark cheesecake – a sublime creation of quark, hazelnut pastry and raspberries with lemonade sorbet.
His relationship with suppliers and his quest for serving the rare, exotic and difficult-to-obtain drives Justin to source the best produce from around the country – Coral Trout sourced and flown in twice a week from Queensland, sustainably farmed Murray Cod, rare breeds of pork, aged beef and lamb, crayfish from Port Campbell, oysters from only the best farmers and fresh truffles from France, Italy and Australia.
Justin not only weaves his magic across The Point’s fine dining restaurant but also in the menu design for weddings, conferences and special events for the complex’s three events spaces which can accommodate up to 500 guests at any one time.
Busy, yes he is – the dedication to his profession and art leaves little time for his hobby of gardening and sporting prowess on the tennis court and golf course.