Last month, Pt. Leo Estate announced the departure of Phil Wood, who had been at the helm of the celebrated cellar door and restaurant since it opened in 2017. Under Wood, the venue secured its place amongst the ranks of Australia’s well-respected restaurants, launching fine-dining restaurant concept Laura in 2018 and earning itself a Gourmet Traveller Best New Restaurant award.
Since the announcement, the question has been: Who will be chosen to replace such a formative figure in the estate’s history?
This week, the answer to that question has been confirmed. Pt. Leo Estate has announced that Josep Espuga, current executive sous chef at the award-winning Mornington Peninsula Estate, will take over from Wood as culinary director.
Originally from Catalonia in Spain, Espuga has made waves in Australian fine-dining since he arrived here a decade ago. Most recently, he led the kitchen at Melbourne communal wine bar Pretty Little, where he introduced a whimsical and daily changing menu of dishes such as Darwin mud crab with barley, egg and an earthy broth that was poured over at-table.
Prior to his arrival in Australia, Espuga racked up experience at a number of Michelin Star restaurants overseas, including at Mugaritz in Spain and Degustation in New York.
Espuga has been with Pt. Leo Estate since the end of last year, appointed under Wood to manage the estate’s three venues: Laura, Pt. Leo Restaurant and the Wine Terrace. This close working relationship with Wood will no doubt ensure a smooth transition for the venue, while offering Espuga greater scope to shape the menu under his own direction.
“I was lucky enough to be able to spend the past several months with Phil, especially re-launching Laura post-lockdown. Phil is a great chef and we found many synergies, such as our classically-inspired training and admiration for chefs including Escoffier and Michel Bras,” says Espuga.
“I am proud to be taking on the mantle of running such an incredible destination and look forward to meeting even more producers on the Mornington Peninsula. Autumn is my favourite season for produce and I am already working on dishes showcasing local mushrooms.
“I am incredibly fortunate to have a stellar senior team, with Ainslie Lubbock running service, Andrew Murch heading our wine programme, and working alongside our GM Roger Lancia. We have many exciting plans ahead.”
Espuga’s reign as culinary director at Pt. Leo Estate was effective as of yesterday, Monday 29 March.