“My food is an expression of my heritage, a product of my curiosity and the result of my hunger.”
Karen has only ever wanted to cook, and she has been doing so for as long as she can remember. As a teenager Karen developed her skills in the classical tradition under Tansy Good at her eponymous Melbourne restaurant. This foundation in technique gave her the freedom to create her own brand of modern Mediterranean cuisine.
In the 90’s Karen held head chef positions at Haskin’s and the much lauded Kent Hotel, before cementing her reputation at The Melbourne Wine Room in St Kilda’s iconic George hotel. Karen was the founding Chef at The Melbourne Wine Room and has garnered countless ‘Chef’s Hats’ from The Age Good food guide in her eleven years as Executive Chef. Karen became a partner in the business in 1997.
In 2002, Karen took an opportunity to further her relationship with business partner at The Melbourne Wine Room, Maurizio Terzini (driving force behind such Melbourne icons as Café e Cucina, Il Baccaro and The Melbourne Wine Room and Sydney favourite Otto), and accepted the mantle of Executive Chef at what was soon to become one of Australia’s most talked about restaurants.
When Karen was appointed Executive Chef at The Icebergs Dining Room and Bar she retained executive control over the kitchen at The Melbourne Wine Room and closely supervised both the menu and the high standard of the food. Testament to her ability to manage this dual role Karen was awarded two ‘Chef’s Hats’ for both restaurants from each city’s well-respected Good Food Guides. Icebergs was named Best New Restaurant in the 2004 guide.
In 2004, Karen along with life and business partner Michael Sapountsis and long time friends Emma King, Damien King and Marcus Ellis launched mr. wolf. The motivation behind mr. wolf was to create a vibrant restaurant that served classic pizza as well as rustic Italian food with an emphasis on freshness and excellent produce. This was complemented by a food friendly wine list with a bias towards regional Italian wines.
Karen has been the contributing chef for the Age’s ‘Sunday Life’ for four years and is a regular presenter on channel Seven’s ‘Better Homes and Gardens’. She is the Author of two successful books, ‘Where the Heart is’ and the recently released ‘Cooking at home’ both under the Lantern imprint for Penguin.
Over the years Karen has also cooked for many charity events including The Mission Dinner for the Homeless, The Breast Cancer Foundation and The Starlight Foundation Four Chefs Dinners. She was a featured chef alongside Stephanie Alexander at a major Slow Food dinner in Turin in 1998, and has been a key presenter at the Melbourne Food Festival. Karen has also contributed several articles to the Weekend Australian.