The day I visited Bistro Moncur there was a French ex-pat dining alone at the front table. He dines at the restaurant once a week to reminisce about Paris, and he tells me this is as good as it gets. Damien Pignolet’s food does that, it transports you to another place. Through his dedication to perfection Pignolet has earnt a reputation as one of Australia’s finest chefs.
Damien is a second generation Australian of French decent. His mother was a wonderful cook whose craft inspired him to make restaurants his career. In 1966 Damien began a four year comprehensive course in catering and hotel management at William Angliss College. His career began in catering and led to teaching and the administration of a Melbourne cooking school.
His dream was realised six years after graduating when he was appointed Executive Chef of Pavillion on the Park in 1978, then one of Sydney’s top restaurants. It was there he met Josephine Carroll, who became his wife and his inspiration, they worked alongside each other at Pavilion, The Old Bank and ultimately at their own restaurant, Claudes, from 1981.
In 1987 tragedy struck when Josephine was killed in a car accident. In her honour Pignolet set up the “Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year Award” an award designed to encourage young chefs to excel.
In 1992 Damien went into partnership with Ron White and purchased the Woollahra Hotel creating Bistro Moncur. The partnership also owns the Bellevue Hotel in nearby Paddington offering a high standard of pub food.
In 2005 Pignolet wrote and published his first cook book, French, a comprehensive guide to French cuisine. The book is dedicated to Josephine and his mum, whose cooking he fondly remembers. His tip to budding chefs and home cooks alike is to “…buy the freshest, best quality raw materials and take as much time as you can to do the job perfectly.”