M People

Our staff are the heart and soul of the M Restaurant Group. Learn a little about the people behind the scenes.

Michelle Garnaut

Founder

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.

Matthew Nilon

General Manager

Matthew Nilon, Restaurant Manager of M on the Bund, 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. After 5 years in Beijing, Matthew is back in Shanghai at M on the Bund.

Matthew’s background in music and arts makes him a natural fit for all M restaurants. 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.

“Savour the moment” is Matthew’s philosophy for himself and for his guests at M on the Bund. 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 table.

Of the 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.”

Hamish Waddel

Executive Chef

At the helm of the culinary operations of M on the Bund and Glam is Executive Chef Hamish C. Waddel, who was sous chef of Cafe Sydney before heading north for his first posting in China.

In his capacity, Hamish leads his team to deliver a dining experience defined by hearty flavour and healthy cooking. He is committed to using sustained and ethically sourced ingredients, which seamlessly matches M’s ethos. The menus, featuring celebrated classic and creative contemporary dishes, are designed around seasonal and organic local and imported ingredients.

This passion for genuine flavour and uncompromised freshness traces to fond childhood memories of his grandmother’s cooking, infused with natural goodness from her backyard garden, and summer wood-fire barbecue of shellfish freshly collected by the beach in his native New Zealand.

Turning his passion into profession, Hamish began his culinary career at the renowned Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant in Auckland after receiving professional training in his home country, and cooked his way to Australia. As he moved through the ranks, he received influence from people he met and worked with along the way.

Culinary inspiration knows no bounds. Hamish sees palatable ideas all around him. Admittedly, even a work of art may develop into the next best thing on the menu.

Having served thousands of guests, including royalty and celebrities like Prince William, Mick Jagger and Bjork, Hamish believes that it is food that brings people together. “A dining experience should be enjoyed amongst friends and family,” he enthuses. That explains what he serves up at the table -- good food for good times and good company.

Alex Yuen

Deputy Manager

For many M guests, manager Alex Yuen is a familiar face: after all, the Hong Kong native is a veteran of M at the Fringe (where he worked for 2 ½ years), M on the Bund (where he spent 7 ½ years) and Capital M. Having returned to M on the Bund after so many years, Alex says he is delighted that, “there is still a real family feeling, and a great sense of camaraderie and teamwork.”

Alex’s gracious hospitality is well known, and comes from a philosophy of paying special attention to the quality of what each guest is offered, and making sure they feel as comfortable as they would in their own home.