Michelle Garnaut

Michelle Garnaut


Founder of M. Restaurant Group. Former Jury President for Asia-Pacific

Michelle Garnaut profile image
South Asia & Oceania

Melbourne-born Michelle Garnaut is a restaurateur and trained cook with a culinary career that spans 25 years, several continents and positions that have ranged from pot-scrubber to waitress to cook to caterer and, finally, proprietor.

After traveling (and cooking) the world, Michelle arrived in Hong Kong in 1984, where she worked in the restaurant business on both sides of the kitchen and then started a catering firm. With very little money, but on the strength of a solid business plan and her reputation as a caterer, she raised the funds to open M at the Fringe in 1989. Located in the historic Ice House, the restaurant became one of the earliest pioneers of independent fine dining in the city.

After a guest chef stint at The Peace Hotel in Shanghai in 1996, Michelle felt that Shanghai was ready for something similar, and took an enormous financial risk to do so. Risking M at the Fringe, she opened M on the Bund in 1999, when the rest of the Bund was a culinary desert, and Shanghai wasn't yet the global superstar that she is today. M on the Bund was the city's first independent, international-standard restaurant, and became an instant hit, recouping the initial investment within three years - a remarkable achievement, especially for a business in China.

In 2006, Michelle opened the Glamour Bar, a very 21st century Shanghai blend of cool sophistication and urban chic that has quickly become the talk of the town.

Both restaurants and the Glamour Bar continue to receive awards and accolades, and even after 18 years (the Fringe) and eight years (the Bund), are consistently named as one of their respective cities' favourites by both critics and diners " a testament to the strength of Michelle's commitment to maintaining the standards of quality and consistency that first won her restaurants acclaim.

Michelle has a long-term commitment to the communities in which she works. She is the Hong Kong director of Care for Children, which works in partnership with the PRC government to provide long-term family care to orphaned and disabled children as an alternative to institutional care.

Michelle also encourages active participation by her company and staff in many community projects, and to that end, has sponsored Hong Kong's International Coastal Clean-up since 2004. Michelle and her team have also worked with the Heep Hong Society, Greenpeace Hong Kong, Amnesty International and the Jane Goodall Foundation, among others.

In 2004, Michelle founded the nonprofit Shanghai International Literary Festival, which has grown into the city's premier literary event. M on the Bund is the primary sponsor of the Festival, which has featured headliners such as Gore Vidal, Amy Tan, Thomas Keneally and Pico Iyer.

Michelle is a popular speaker, and especially enjoys speaking to organizations involved with the promotion of women in business.

Her achievements: Michelle has been honored with awards that include the Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2003 International Woman of Influence Awards and the Business Entrepreneurial Award from the ANZ Australian Business Awards.