“I’ve got a head full of broken biscuits & I love it!” This witty expression, known as a ‘Seanism’, personally describes Sean Connolly: “I’m so busy & I’ve got so much going on in my head creatively, & I wouldn’t have it another way”. And it encapsulates his modus operandi.
Sean Connolly the chef – no…change that – creative director of food, has an assortment of Seanisms on his website are insights into the thinking behind this restaurant artist. Another gem is Seanism no.1: Make it Un-fuck-up-able. “When you’re multiplying brands & restaurants – keep it simple, keep consistent, & keep it all about the provenance”. These anecdotes tell of a man who dares to be different. Proudly a chef, but Sean dares – always has, always will – to be of the ordinary.
This difference…is Gowings Bar & Grill’s advantage. They recently appointed Sean as their creative director of food and beverage. The restaurant is currently reminiscent of a New York steakhouse, but under Sean’s creative eye Gowings will transform into an Italian grill. Its re-launch planned in July. Surprisingly food is not Sean’s top priority. Ambiance, staff, lighting and music are the essential backdrop to enable his food to shine.
Sean hails from Huddersfield, UK and it was his Yorkshire grandmother who laid the foundations for his love of cooking; she made the kitchen a fun and exciting place to be. He continued his love of cooking at school choosing home economics, the only boy in a class of girls, proudly showing off his first set of chef knives aged 13. Sean worked, for free, at the Pennine Hilton where giant-sized chef Nick Snooke mentored him. Sean was set for a career within the kitchen. He proudly told his grandfather he’d work on a big ship one day. And he did. Sean’s father waved him off from Southampton Port, aged 18, for a 20-month hard-working adventure on the QEII. A life-long passion for caviar pursued!
Sean moved away from cooking upon his return to the UK – demoralised by the bullying – but when he emigrated in Australia his calling followed. After biding his time at several hotels, Sean’s career picked up pace when he joined Star Casino and Star City. It was Sean’s turn to star at fine dining venue Astral, showcasing an opulent $1000 tasting menu across in 10 courses and five hours. When he won 2008 Sydney Morning Herald Chef of the Year, co-editor Joanna Savill said, “Blessed with sound technique, wit, imagination and the intelligence not to try too hard, Connolly continues to entertain and please us,” adding that he had “potential for even greater things and sheer bloody talent”.
From there it was upward, The Morrison on George Street and the Wild Flower Bar & Dining
at Bells at Killcare. In 2009, Sean branched out into media, hosting the first 13-part season of SBS’s My Family Feast. By now Sean was internationally renowned. Management at QT Hotels & Resorts knew that Esther Restaurant, their signature restaurant at QT Hotel Auckland, was in excellent hands when he directed its launch late 2020.
Now, a new chapter in Sean Connolly’s creative life, QT Sydney and Gowings Bar & Grill. Gowings, within QT Sydney, is the nucleus of Sydney’s culinary and historical precinct. A landmark location built in 1929, Gowings was then the tallest building in Sydney, situated on the corner of George (surmised to be Sydney’s first street) and Market Street, two colonial thoroughfares. The Palazzo style building is graced with gothic features, and the restaurant a stately space, worthy of the ‘fine dining drama’ Sean will create.
Seanism no.4: Don’t try whistling with custard in your mouth; meaning “Geezer don’t try too hard & do too much at once… one job at a time”.
Sean Connolly is doing just that, conquering each creative undertaking, one after another.