Michelle Garnaut

Michelle Anne Garnaut, AO is an Australian restaurateur and cook best known for her series of upscale restaurants in China such as M on the Bund, Glam, Capital M, the Glamour Bar and M at the Fringe. Garnaut is also a founder of the Shanghai International Literary Festival,[1] the M Literary Residency, the Village People Project and has spearheaded Mentor Walks in both Beijing and Shanghai. In 2018, Michelle Garnaut was awarded an Order of Australia (AO) for her work.

Michelle Garnaut
EducationMonash University, William Angliss Institute of TAFE
Culinary career
Cooking styleEuropean cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisine, North African cuisine
Current restaurant(s)
  • M at the Fringe (Hong Kong); M on the Bund (Shanghai); Capital M (Beijing); The Glamour Bar (Shanghai)


After dropping out of Monash University, Garnaut travelled around the world, spending time in Europe, including Greece and England, as well as the United States of America. She then returned to Australia to study catering at the William Angliss Institute of TAFE.[2] She then went to London, where she worked at Leiths School of Food and Wine as one of the head chefs on the Orient Express.[2] Following this, she arrived in Hong Kong in 1984.[2] Though she only intended a short stay in Hong Kong, she soon began cooking at Restaurant 97 in Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong, after which she launched her own catering business.[3] Over a period of 20 years, she then launched three restaurants and a bar in Greater China: M at the Fringe in Hong Kong (1989–2009), M on the Bund in Shanghai (opened 1999), Glamour Bar in Shanghai (2006–2014), Glam in Shanghai (opened in 2015) and Capital M in Beijing (2009–2017).

M at the FringeEdit

Garnaut originally wanted to open a restaurant in Hong Kong with her former co-worker at the Restaurant 97 Group, fellow Australian Greg Malouf. However, Malouf fell ill and had to return to Australia.[4] During her time at Restaurant 97, Garnaut became acquainted with business contacts, local celebrities and bankers who became investors in her new restaurant.[5] In 1989, Garnaut opened her first restaurant, M at the Fringe, in The Hong Kong Fringe Club's building. Her inspiration behind M at the Fringe was to fill a niche in Hong Kong for modern international restaurants.[3] In an interview with Time Magazine, Garnaut remarked, "When I first arrived in Asia, I was in Hong Kong and got into a lift to go up to a restaurant on the seventh floor, where we were greeted by 20 Chinese guys saying 'Ciao' and singing 'O Sole Mio.' I thought, 'This is crazy.' A restaurant has to have some soul. The whole make-believe world has to have some basis in reality."[5] M at the Fringe was successful in attracting a loyal and famous clientele, including guests like Pierce Brosnan and Kate Moss. At the time, Hong Kong dining was mostly based on Cantonese cuisine, but M at the Fringe was considered a pioneer in European fine dining.[6] Twenty years later, the building was forced to undergo extensive renovations to meet government standards forcing Garnaut to relocate M at the Fringe to a different location. That same year, it won HK Magazine's "Best Restaurant" award. Currently, M at the Fringe is still searching for a new location.[6]

M on the BundEdit

In 1999, Garnaut expanded the M Restaurant Group to Shanghai by opening M on the Bund on the historic waterfront.[7] After testing the market as a guest chef cooking western food at the famous Peace Hotel on the Bund, Garnaut decided to establish a restaurant overlooking the Bund, the Huangpu River and Pudong.[8] Garnaut opened M on the Bund during a time when the Bund was not nearly the attraction that it is today. Devoid of upscale restaurants, luxury stores, cafes, and bars of the present day, Garnaut's choice of location on the Bund was surprising, and in retrospect, pioneering. As Garnaut said in a 2004 interview with The Wall Street Journal, "People said I was crazy. The Bund was dark and dingy. This was a real risk."[9] Though critics predicted the failure of the venture, and M on the Bund was the sole upscale independent western restaurant on the Bund for a full five years, it quickly became a landmark, and eventually other restaurants, bars and luxury venues followed.[5] Like M at the Fringe, M on the Bund found popularity with the social elite including celebrities like Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, supermodel Tyra Banks, the Ferragamo family, the United Kingdom's Prince Edward, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, the queen of Thailand and the prince of the Netherlands.[10] M on the Bund also found success with a variety of awards from the Miele Guide, Zagat, and Conde Nast.[11]

The Glamour Bar & M GlamEdit

In 2006, Garnaut established The Glamour Bar on the floor below M on the Bund in the former Nissin Shipping Building. The bar served as a lounge as well as a venue for M Group literary events[12] until its closing in 2014[13] In 2015, M Glam opened on the same floor as M on the Bund. Glam is a bar, restaurant and lounge and serves as the venue for the restaurant's cultural events, including the Shanghai International Literary Festival, chamber music, film screenings, and talks.

Capital MEdit

Capital M was established in 2009 in Beijing, overlooking the north end of Tiananmen.[14] Garnaut spent more than seven years negotiating with officials and bidding on the Qianmen location. Garnaut pushed to have the restaurant open before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the construction of Qianmen was delayed, pushing the restaurant opening back. Even after opening, Capital M faced another challenge as it was forced to shut down for one week during the celebration for the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.[5] Garnaut said in an interview with The Australian, "You have to roll with the punches in China. If you lose your temper, they just don't care. That's how it is." After overcoming the obstacles, Capital M, like its predecessors, went on to win year-end awards including multiple wins in The Beijinger's Reader Restaurant Awards in 2011.[15] Capital M closed in September 2017.

Shanghai International Literary FestivalEdit

In 2002, Garnaut founded the Shanghai International Literary Festival. The 2–week-long festival takes place at Glam. The festival has continued to draw well-known authors including Gore Vidal, Amy Tan, and Thomas Keneally.


Garnaut's primary philanthropic work currently focuses on the Village People Project, which creates community bathhouses to improve the welfare of rural Chinese women.[16] In Beijing, she is an organizer of MentorWalks, a mentoring program for young women starting out in their careers. Previously, she has served as the director of Care for Children's Hong Kong branch which provides family care to orphans and children with disabilities.[17] and led Hong Kong's International Coastal Clean-up since 2004. She has also been active in the Heep Hong Society, Greenpeace Hong Kong, Amnesty International and the Jane Goodall Foundation, among others.[17] She has also served as a judge for the Cartier Women's Initiative Award, serving as Asia jury president in 2011 and 2012.[18]

Awards and achievementsEdit

Garnaut won the Entrepreneur of the Year award at the 2003 International Woman of Influence Awards and the Business Entrepreneurial Award from the ANZ Australian Business Awards.[17]

In September 2015, Garnaut won the Advance Global Australian Award in the food and agriculture category. She shared this award with Mr. Peter Carberry, Deputy Director General ICRISAT.

In 2018, Garnaut was awarded an Order of Australia for distinguished service to Australia-China relations as a restaurateur and entrepreneur, for the promotion of Australian food, film and design, as a supporter of literary and cultural programs, and as a role model.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) BloombergLink.com: Michelle Garnaut
  2. ^ a b c [1] The Age: Michelle Garnaut interview
  3. ^ a b [2] HK: Michelle Garnaut
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Mietta's: Greg Malouf
  5. ^ a b c d [3] TIME: "The M in Stamina"
  6. ^ a b [4] Luxury Insider:"Hong Kong's M at the Fringe Bids Farewell to The Fringe"
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 September 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Shanghai Eats: M on the Bund
  8. ^ [5] The Australian: Chinese Cracker
  9. ^ [6] Ron Gluckman interview with Michelle Garnaut
  10. ^ [7] CNNGo.com: Where the Celebrities Eat in Shanghai
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Your Ultimate Guide to Beijing: M on the Bund
  12. ^ [8] Shanghailander: Glamour Bar
  13. ^ [9]
  14. ^ [10] CNNGo.com: Capital M opens in China's (northern) capital
  15. ^ [11] The Beijinger: 8th Annual Reader Restaurant Awards
  16. ^ [12] TEDxBeijing, Theme: Double Lives
  17. ^ a b c [13] Cartier Women's Initiative Awards: Michelle Garnaut
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)