Le Cordon Bleu Master, Chef Samantha Gowing

The Gowing name has been synonymous with good food (and cars) in Australia since the gastronomic boom of the 1970s.


Samantha Gowing learnt to cook from the age of six and was influenced my her maternal grandmother, Evie and her beloved father, Dennis. Both taught her the fundamental elements of cooking including Australian/Anglo-Saxon fare such as Pavlova, classic sponge cakes, Yorkshire pud and roasts of all sorts. Sam did her apprenticeship on the restaurant floor of Gowings East Melbourne, trained by highly skilled European staff who took their trade seriously.

Read ANU Dennis Gowing Biography

Dennis Gowing was a cockney orphan who came to Australia as a ’10 pound Pom’ and made his fortune in the car, TV, art, horse racing and restaurant industries in a career that spanned over three decades. Kevin Dennis New Faces was an Australian talent show that preceded the British show of the same name, produced at GTV-9 Melbourne.

Dennis was a man who once bought more TV advertising on more TV programmes than any person then or since.Kevin Dennis New Faces began in 1963 under the name Kevin Dennis Auditions, sponsored by Kevin Dennis Motors, running on Saturday mornings. The program name soon changed to Kevin Dennis New Faces, and later simply New Faces, becoming a Sunday night prime time show.


A colourful Melbourne entrepreneur who successes included owning the winner of the 1985 Melbourne Cup, What A Nuisance, creating multi award-winning fine dining establishments such as Jacksons in Toorak (1977-1984), Gowings Restaurant (1984-1990) which was awarded  2.5 Chefs hats by the Age Good Food Guide and nominated as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in Australia by renowned food critic Stephen Downes.

“The food was good, the wine list impressive, the waiters excellent – and Gowings was a great place for a party.”  – Rita Erlich, Melbourne By Menu (see more below)

“Gowing’s was magic. Sophisticated stuff. Clever food. And crazy fun. One night, after an exceptionally big ratings win, I think (and I am not proud of this) I had nine servings of Beluga and chilled vodka shots and tiny blinis, before the inimitable and wise Ms.Jackie Weaver (to whom I happened to be luckily married) convinced Dennis to convince me that they had run out. And in the 1980s they cost $50 a serve!” – Derryn Hinch, The Human Headline

Read Derryn Hinch’s tribute



Chris Gowing

Chris Gowing

“Gowing, aware of the changing market, and in remission from bladder cancer diagnosed in 1988 bought the old Grace Darling Hotel – the birthplace of the Collingwood Football Club.” (Rita Erlich) At 24 years old, Sam became the licensee of this iconic bluestone pub in the heartland of Collingwood. When the Pies won the Grand Final in 1990, it was seen as a blessing and thus a new era was born for this historic landmark. Dennis Gowing died from a long battle with cancer in December 1991 and for the next seven years Samantha and her brother Chris Gowing  jointly owned and operated this historic hotel accumulating a raft of awards and industry recognition.

Read Rita Erlich’s Obituary

“Samantha was twenty-four years old when she took over her Father’s mantle as a prominent Melbourne hotelier. As an attractive, energetic, educated young woman seeking an income and an outlet for her talents at the end of the twentieth century, she could have chosen any number of professions. She selected hotelkeeping not only because of her family connections, but also because it gave her the opportunity to have a ‘public persona’, ‘gain notoriety’, use her ‘natural born’ womanly inclination to be a ‘provider’ while at the same time ‘be in the thick of things.” – Dr. Clare Wright, Beyond The Ladies Lounge – A History of Australia’s female Publicans


During this era Sam and brother Chris turned Gowings Grace Darling into a multi-award winning culinary and entertainment emporium that featured fine food, vintage wines, prestigious artwork by Clifton Pugh and Tim Storrier, reaping a raft of industry awards including 3AW’s Pub of the Year, Best Hotel Dining Room and a coveted Chef’s Hat from The Age Good Food Guide.

Back in the days when cleanskins were unheard of and restaurateurs could not afford their own vineyards, we commissioned our friends at Diamond Valley Vineyards to produce a selection of great signature drops and chose our Tim Storrier “Natura Morta – The Burning of the gifts”  to Grace the label.

Her signature healing cuisine Surf Spa Food celebrates food as medicine with a contemporary culinary twist. Her unique style has been embraced around the globe at health retreats such as Australian properties The Four Seasons, Bali; Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat; Cabarita Ocean Health Retreat; Kahanda Kanda, Sri Lanka – and the exotic Kempinski hotel in Zanzibar, Tanzania. See Resort & Spa

Sam currently lives in Byron Bay where she enjoys the rolling surf and creates dynamic spa cuisine and motivational mentoring programs  for private consultations, organic luxury spa retreats and corporate chef team building incentives.

Her proudest achievement to date is the recent launch of her first book The Healing Feeling. BUY HERE Self published by her trademarked entity Whole Happiness™ Publishing.

About Rita Erlich’s book Read Sam’s Blog about Rita

Rita Erlich has just released a new book and has donated some historical menus from iconic Melbourne restaurants to the Gusto exhibition at the State Library of Victoria. Pictured in the domes reading room at the State Library. Picture by Shannon Morris. Commissioning writer Corrie Perkin. August 16th 2012.

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