Nikki To

Acclaimed culinary figure Clayton Wells has officially joined Public as the hospitality group continues to recruit some of the industry’s most talented chefs.

Wells was the force behind Sydney fine diner Automata until its closure last year, with the chef saying he was “looking forward to challenging myself the way I have co-owning and operating Automata” after seven years.

He went on to open Mod. Dining in the new wing of the Art Gallery of New South Wales in December 2022 before commencing the group creative culinary director position at Public this month.

The former Momofuku Seiobo chef has been working in the developmental side of the business, which he says was a major part of the appeal of the position.

“Finding a fresh concept for cuisine and the entire pre-opening process is what I loved the most about all the projects I’ve been involved in previously,” he says.

“Coming up with new menus, invigorating existing restaurants and staff, and starting from scratch for the vision of the rare properties in Public’s portfolio made this an obvious choice for my next challenge.”

Wells is set to support talent acquisition as well as hone the food offerings of all Public venues including a yet-to-be-named hotel in Bondi, Strand Hotel in Darlinghurst, Lady Hampshire in Camperdown, Oxford House in Paddington, and Camelia Grove in Alexandria.

The group’s portfolio currently spans 20 properties, with restorations currently underway at Kurrajong Hotel in Erskineville, The Town Hall in Balmain, Clifton Hotel in Kew, and The Vine Hotel in Collingwood.

It’s shaping up to be a productive year of growth for Public as the group continues to launch “venues driven by the desire to create newly familiar and warm places that bring renewed energy” to neighbourhoods.

Public’s Group Culinary Director Nick Mahlook will speak at the upcoming Hospitality Leaders Summit in Melbourne on 31 July on the forecasting the future panel.