Due to open in late August, Gembrook’s new restaurant “The Independent” is shaping up to be an exciting and very welcome addition to Main Street. The Local recently spent the morning with the owners including highly respected chef, Mauro Callegari, who filled us in on what to expect from this exciting new venue.
Born in Argentina, Mauro’s kitchen skills developed early under the watchful eye of his mother in the Callegari family restaurant, in the Buenos Aires suburb of La Paternal.
Mauro’s resume is impressive – after years working in 5 star Argentinean restaurants, he moved to London in 2001 to be part of the team opening Conran’s Orrery-Almeida with Michelin star chef Chris Galvin, followed by stints at some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants with highly respected chefs including Marcus Moore at the Sofitel and Raymond Capaldi at Fenix (a Richmond restaurant originally opened by Masterchef’s Gary Mehigan). He oversaw the opening of the Mandala Restaurant in the Yarra Valley as Head Chef, and more recently running the kitchen at True South Restaurant & Brewery in Black Rock.
Seeking a tree-change and the chance to run his own venue, Mauro and the Callegari family recently decided to partner with the Gordon family, including Robert Gordon, and sons Sam & Bobby.
As a child growing up in Gembrook, Robert Gordon loved going into the old hardware store, in those days filled with bags of nails and construction supplies that was a wonderland for a young boy. As an adult he watched the building deteriorate, especially in the years after the Gembrook Sweet Co closed its doors. When the opportunity presented itself to purchase the site, Robert jumped at the chance to give the building a new lease of life. Not long after, Mauro’s interest in starting his own restaurant team with a love of the hills region, came up in conversation with Roberts son, Sam. Quite quickly a collaboration was formed. Together, their vision is shaping up to offer locals a long overdue treat.
“ Our Philosophy is to be as independent as possible, supporting local and Victorian producers,” Mauro explained as he showed us around the building, “Saying that, we would like to show a bit of Argentina too, by having a few Argentinean wines, from small boutiques wineries.”
They are also hoping to hold cooking classes, host special guest chefs from the city and overseas, and are designing their own range of Argentinian dinnerware in partnership with Robert Gordon Pottery.
Both partners, the Gordons & the Callegari family live locally in Cockatoo and Gembrook. Although planning a 5 star experience, their vision is to offer locals and tourists alike high quality, accessible and affordable meals using as much local, fresh produce as possible.
The floor plan will allow for relaxed, casual meals, a fireplace area next to the bar for catch-ups over a glass of wine or beer as well as a more formal dining area.
An open kitchen design means Chef Mauro’s theatrical technique and flair will be on full display – and diners will be able to enjoy the experience of watching him at work.
An open beer garden and kids play area will provide a fantastic area for warmer days and nights. Expected open times will be lunch and dinner Wednesday to Sunday, with breakfast available on weekends.
The menu will draw on Mauro’s considerable experience and Argentinian/Italian heritage – lots of affordable tapas style plates, as well as generous meals for groups to share, not forgetting a selection of more sophisticated delights for the foodies – the overall benefit being a shared bill and lower cost per person.
Although the restaurant is shaping up to be a thoroughly lovely and impressive venue visually, locals can genuinely expect affordable, high quality food and a welcoming, family atmosphere.
“We would like The Independent to be a hub where everybody hangs out, has fun, celebrates and enjoys good food, wine and beer.”
Mauro and his team are inviting local produce growers and farmers to contact them, as well as prospective employees with experience and/or qualifications in the hospitality industry. Contact Mauro direct via email: email@example.com if you are interested.
Co-written by Leah Andrews & Kym Griffiths