Chris Lucas is a restaurateur with an uncanny knack for not only predicting the changing trends in dining but for dictating them too. The skill has earned several accolades; to name a few: “Restaurant of the Year” (The Botanical in the Australian Good Food Guide 2003), “Top One Hundred World Food Experiences” (The Botanical again, in Savior magazine), “Best Restaurant in Australia” (Chin Chin, Kate Stevenson, 3AW) and “Hottest Restaurant in Australia” (Chin Chin in The Australian newspaper’s Top 50 Hottest Restaurants).
Despite the lofty heights his restaurants invariably seem to reach, Lucas, the brain behind some of the most popular and distinctive restaurants in Melbourne, is driven by a philosophy to bring high end food back down to ground level, where it can be enjoyed by more than the fine dining set for whom money, status and a Saturday night reservation is no object.
Lucas’ vision has always been that great food; service and ambience should not be available to an exclusive minority who can afford it. He believes that it should be accessible to all in a fun environment that’s seeking to always innovate.
In doing so, Lucas has pioneered a ‘No Reservations’ policy at his current flagship restaurant Chin Chin. This has resulted in a queue which is probably as well known as the restaurant itself and whose ranks, at various times, have included pop star Pink, Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, and many thousand lesser known, but just as eager punters. Lucas has worked hard to make Chin Chin an experience that people would put themselves out for.
All of Lucas’ restaurants, whether it’s the Italian fare at Baby, or the bursting Thai flavours at Chin Chin have one other attribute in common; they’ve become part of the fabric of their suburb and the city. This phenomenon was best summed up by luminary of the arts scene and Artistic Director of the Melbourne Theatre Company Brett Sheehy, who said: “The fact that Chin Chin has staked its claim to being part of Melbourne’s landscape so profoundly, when restaurants seem to open and close in the blink of a tweet or blog post, is testimony to its quality, the richness of its personality and the breadth of experiences it offers.”
Lucas believes that restaurants have a broader responsibility beyond simply feeding people. His passion and commitment to contributing in any way he can to making Melbourne not only one of the greatest food cities in the world, but a great city, has proved the virtuous of his thinking.