Capital M Executive Chef Gary Martin brings to Beijing a wealth of culinary experience from top kitchens in Europe, Shanghai and his native Australia.
"Gary's talent, management skills and dedication made him a natural choice for the position of Capital M Executive Chef."
Gary’s formal training began over 20 years ago as a hotel apprentice chef in Australia, followed by several years at Rockpool Catering, the catering arm of the renowned Sydney restaurant. Here, he honed his technique and developed a philosophy of using fresh, local and sustainable ingredients, eventually serving as Head Chef.
Gary’s expertise in high-end catering next took him to London and to companies focused on events, tour catering, weddings and more. He returned to Sydney to work as Head Chef for the law firm Allens Arthur Robinson.
Gary first arrived in China to work for M Restaurant Group’s Shanghai restaurant, M on the Bund, in 2009, during the very busy Expo period, and his talent, management skills and dedication made him a natural choice for the position of Capital M Executive Chef.
Melbourne-born Michelle Garnaut is a restaurateur (and former cook) with a culinary career that spans three decades, several continents and positions that have ranged from dishwasher to waitress to chef to caterer proprietor.
Over the past 25 years, Michelle has opened a trio of restaurants and a bar in China: M at the Fringe in Hong Kong (1989-2009), M on the Bund (1999) and the Glamour Bar (2001-2014) in Shanghai and Capital M in Beijing (2009). Each became an icon in its city, sharing the characteristics that make it an “M” restaurant: simply good food – Michelle’s brand of delicious modern European cooking – stylish yet comfortable decor, superb, warm service and a real sense of place.
"Feeding the mind and soul is just as important as feeding the body."
Michelle Garnaut was a caterer and cook who’d roamed across three continents when she arrived in Hong Kong in 1984. She loved the excitement of the road and meeting new people, and had worked in restaurants—starting out as a dishwasher and waitress—since she’d been a teenager. But it was time to go into business for herself. In a small space at the Fringe Club, in 1989, she opened M at the Fringe. It was a place where Western-style fine dining with heart welcomed diners again and again, and it swiftly grew into a city institution. It was also the beginning of a long and celebrated career as a restaurateur for Michelle, described by Time magazine as “an industry celebrity” as well as “the pioneer of China’s fashionable-dining scene,” and one of her most groundbreaking accomplishments was opening one of the first fine-dining establishments in China to stand apart from a hotel. M on the Bund, when it opened in 1999, was the first independent restaurant on the historic Shanghai waterfront. And like its predecessor, it soon became a beloved oasis for locals, visitors and lovers of good food and warm service.
Today, Michelle’s M Restaurant Group includes M on the Bund, Capital M in Beijing and Glam, a chic Shanghai dining lounge. In the past lie the original restaurant, M at the Fringe—ending its run when the club underwent reconstruction in 2009—and the Glamour Bar, for many years a mainstay of Shanghai nightlife. But as the Hong Kong restaurant closed its doors, Capital M—a long planned-for addition on the edge of the Forbidden City—opened, taking the elegance, comfort and delicious food of the M experience to a new northern audience.
Over the years, in tandem with the restaurants’ exuberant growth, an empire of cultural events has grown up. From the very beginning Michelle saw her venues as places where music, literature and the arts would have a home, and she has founded the Shanghai and Capital Literary Festivals, the Shanghai Chamber Music Festival and Competition and the M Literary Residency, as well as welcoming hundreds of talks and other events every year.
She’s also the co-founder of the Village People Project, which aims to improve the lives and health of villagers in rural China through the creation of solar-powered bathhouses, and a supporter of Educating Girls in Rural China, which helps girls in rural Gansu Province obtain an education. In Beijing and Shanghai, she spearheads Mentor Walks, where up-and-coming professional women can seek advice from experienced mentors on monthly morning walks.
Michelle is the recipient of many international honours, including Entrepreneur of the Year at the International Woman of Influence Awards and the Business Entrepreneurial Award at the ANZ Australian Business Awards. In September 2015, she received the inaugural award in Food at the Advance Global Australian Awards. She was a founding judge for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards and served as Asia Jury President two years running, and serves on the boards of numerous non-profits.
Bruno van der Burg arrived in Hong Kong for a two-week vacation in 1985, and never left. The Dutch art history student had been planning to finish his studies in Rome, but life took its own turn: A cousin put him in touch with Michelle Garnaut, who was then the manager of a restaurant, and he was soon working there as well. After Michelle opened M at the Fringe in 1989, the two reconnected in 1990. They have been working together ever since.
"We want to make our guests comfortable and relaxed in a luxurious—but not formal—atmosphere."
In 1997/1998, Bruno was instrumental in M’s decision to open a restaurant on the historic Bund. The location was at the time not an obvious choice, far from Shanghai’s business centre. When M on the Bund opened in January 1999, five years passed before any other restaurants opened on the waterfront. But M on the Bund fast became a destination restaurant that locals and visitors alike sought out for its delicious fare, warm service and impressive setting overlooking Pudong.
“It was the new Shanghai and the old Shanghai,” Bruno says, “and we were right there in the middle of things.” Bruno also presided over M’s immensely popular Glamour Bar and its Gatsby-esque parties. And when the bar reached the end of its run, he helped usher Glam, M’s chic dining lounge, into being.
Today, in his role as General Manager of M on the Bund, Bruno is an attentive presence. “We want to make our guests comfortable and relaxed in a luxurious—but not formal—atmosphere,” he says. A sense of warmth and welcome greets diners, whether they’ve been coming year after year or are experiencing all M has to offer for the very first time.
Executive Chef Hamish Pollitt came to M on the Bund in 2006 from Sydney’s Coast Restaurant. After an omnivorous childhood in Hong Kong, a return to Asia after working in London and Australia was a refreshing leap for the Sydney native.
"Never accept anything less than the best."
At M on the Bund and at Glam Hamish has brought his flair for classic, delicious food to thousands of diners. His philosophy is simple: Cooking dishes that are both beautiful and satisfying—the kinds of things he personally enjoys. Capital M in Beijing bears his stamp as well. In the run-up to the restaurant’s 2009 opening, Hamish relocated to Beijing to hire and train the staff, oversee the implementation of the menu and coordinate M’s entry into the Beijing dining scene. Capital M, like its southern siblings, has become a city landmark, a place where the finest food is served in a peerless environment.
That kind of quality takes time and care in the kitchen; even something as seemingly uncomplicated as the succulent Tonkatsu Pork Sandwich that is a favourite at Glam requires 24 hours to make. And local ingredients are a source of much inspiration, appearing on the menu in dishes like mushroom ravioli, alongside classics like M’s Crispy Suckling Pig and M’s Very Famous Pavlova.
Hamish also seeks out and encourages organically grown produce from suppliers, emphasizing that it’s work that pays off. “The best ingredients create the best meals,” he says. “Never accept anything less than the best.”
When David Wang came through Shanghai in 2010, it was supposed to be a vacation. But with the Shanghai Expo world’s fair about to get under way, talented luxury hospitality professionals were in high demand, and Wang, who speaks four languages and had been manager of Toronto’s Rain Restaurant, was snapped up by the Shangri-la Pudong.
"Those are the little moments that make it."
Canadian-born and educated at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, Wang took to Shanghai, and he was soon handpicked by Michelle Garnaut help manage Glamour Bar. Today, as the manager of Glam, M’s chic dining lounge, Wang brings his personal touch, warm humor, and exquisite taste to all he does.
Glam’s signature cocktails, with homemade bitters and infusions, are his own creations, and he’ll gladly give a tour of the 32 wines available from Glam’s Enomatic machines. Most importantly, he loves to make guests feel at home: “Those are the little moments that make it.”
Matthew Nilon, General Manager of Capital M, has nearly 20 years of experience in fine-dining restaurants across the Asia Pacific. A native of Queensland, Australia, he joined the M Restaurant Group in 2007 and spent five years as Restaurant Manager at M on the Bund in Shanghai before relocating to Beijing to assume the role of General Manager at Capital M.
"'Savour the moment' is Matthew’s philosophy for himself and for his guests at Capital M."
At Capital M, Matthew is responsible for all operations, staff training and mentoring. He also works closely with Executive Chef Gary Martin to develop the restaurant’s seasonal menus, in addition to all of the tailored private events.
Matthew’s background in music and arts makes him a natural fit for Capital M. A talented viola player, he worked at the Sydney Theatre Company as both restaurant and events manager prior to arriving in China.
He thrives on devising memorable, tailor-made celebrations and events for clients. He is also responsible for programming Capital M’s monthly cultural calendar, including chamber recitals, children’s activities and author talks.
“Savour the moment” is Matthew’s philosophy for himself and for his guests at Capital M. This is no surprise – as a passionate foodie, he continually seeks new ways to expand his knowledge surrounding food and beverage.
He has completed certifications at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and truly enjoys bringing the benefit of this knowledge to the tables of Capital M.
Of the Capital M experience, he says, “I want our guests to feel as if they’re at a dinner party – that sense of warmth and happiness, accompanied by great food and drink, and of course, great service.”
For many Capital M guests, manager Alex Yuen is a familiar face: after all, the Hong Kong native is a veteran of both M at the Fringe (where he worked for 2 ½ years) and M on the Bund (where he spent 7 ½ years). And just as in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Alex says he is delighted that at Capital M, “there is a real family feeling, and a great sense of camaraderie and teamwork.”
"I enjoy meeting different guests – old friends from Hong Kong and Shanghai, and new ones here in Beijing. I hope to be meeting them here at Capital M for a long time!"