After 40 years in the kitchen, Neil Perry is hanging up his apron. The feted and multi-hatted chef is leaving the Rockpool Dining Group, where he's been culinary director and ambassador since a $60 million buyout by Quadrant Private Equity in 2016.
Perry had been looking to reacquire his trio of high-end restaurants – Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and Rosetta – but the deal was scuppered by uncertainty stemming from Covid-19 closures and subsequent capacity limits due to physical distancing requirements.
Perry has also enjoyed a 23-year relationship with Qantas, initially working with the airline to redesign its Boeing 747 first class inflight dining in 1997, later broadening his brief to dining and drinks for international and domestic business class, as well as Qantas' flagship first class and business class lounges.
"It’s impossible to imagine food and wine on Qantas without Neil’s influence," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has said. “We say that when you step on a Qantas flight overseas you’re already in Australia – and a Neil Perry meal is part of that experience."
Perry, who turned 63 last week, says his main focus will now be the Hope Delivery Initiative, a charitable endeavour he launched in May to provide up to 2,000 free meals each day for the homeless, international students and temporary visa holders working in Sydney and Melbourne's hospitality industry, who are ineligible for the government's $130 billion JobKeeper employer assistance program.
But what does this all mean for Qantas, where Perry holds the title of Creative Director for Food, Service and Beverage? When Qantas eventually reopens its Sydney and Melbourne first class lounges, will the famous salt and pepper calamari and deconstructed pavs be a thing of the past?
Not quite. Perry says he'll remain as a consultant to the Rockpool Dining Group, and Qantas says there'll be no change to Perry's partnership with the airline.
"We continue to see Neil making a strong contribution across the lounge and inflight experience into the future," a spokesperson for the airline told Executive Traveller.