The glass towers of the Melbourne skyline fade from the rear-view mirror. Shane Delia is driving south. His destination: the Mornington peninsula, a natural paradise on the coast at Port Phillip Bay, close to the centre of the bustling Australian metropolis. When the long evenings in the kitchen of his flagship restaurant Maha get to be too much and his stress levels hit the roof, this picturesque peninsula is a great place to unwind.
Incidentally, it is one of the reasons Melbourne was chosen as one of the best places to live in the world eight times in a row, from 2011 to 2018. The global liveability index published in The Economist magazine considers more than just the quality of life in the city centre; local relaxation spots also play a role. And they are obvious: on softly rolling hills, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes ripen in the sunshine, koalas and kangaroos play in the shadows of the mighty eucalyptus trees, and waves break gently across the white sand beaches.
Shane Delia before the Melbourne skyline.
Culinary artist: Shane Delia in his restaurant Maha.
All of this is perfectly situated less than a 50-minute drive from Melbourne itself. But you could say it’s taken Shane Delia half his life to get here. “When I was a kid, our trips were always to the other side of the bay,” he says, where the “working-class folk” (as he puts it) used to go.
But today he is a star: top chef, TV presenter and brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz Australia, he is familiar and famous all across the southern Australian state of Victoria, the capital of which is, of course, Melbourne. This is the city that gave him his success and has become the gourmet capital of Australia. And with no little help from Delia himself.
Born to Maltese immigrants and raised in Deer Park (a working-class suburb in northern Melbourne), Delia was not an easy pupil. He often found himself in heated conflict with teachers and classmates alike. But love for his parents and the understanding of what they gave up to settle in a new country is what pushed Shane through. “My family sacrificed so much to give me the opportunities I have had,” Delia says. “I can’t relax now that things are looking positive. If my day isn’t fully booked with meetings, I feel like I’m not doing something right.”
This is why he always turns up at his restaurant Maha on Bond Street early in the morning and doesn’t leave until late at night. Situated in Melbourne’s finance district, Delia and his team have been creating culinary masterpieces for over 10 years. His kitchen combines Middle Eastern specialties with local produce, like Australian squid, octopus and scallops with Lebanese couscous, or chemen cured kingfish with Urfa biber and preserved lemon. He has dreams of expanding into Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Athletic: the silhouette of the CLS.
Many of Delia’s famous friends live in Mornington. He knows the winding back roads and coastal paths here like the back of his hand. His gaze moves from the road ahead to the turquoise water of the bay, reminiscent of the Caribbean even here in Australia. The tarmac is sprinkled with patches of sunlight that filter through the dense foliage on the eucalyptus-lined avenues. Regardless of how often Delia visits Mornington, he never fails to be impressed by its sights.
Here, in the vineyards of the Polperro Winery, is where Delia celebrates his wedding anniversaries with Lebanese wife, Maha, who has become his most fervent supporter and without whom he may never have had the career he does. Here they can wander peacefully through the vineyards, accompanied only by the murmur of the wind in the trees instead of the paparazzi that have become a part of Delia’s life of fame.
Even though Delia has been plunged into the world of glitz and glamour, he still never feels quite at home there. “Family is everything for me,” he affirms. He didn’t name his restaurant after his wife for no reason. Without a doubt it was the TV programme Spice Journey – which has since been distributed to and broadcast in over 150 countries and catapulted him to national fame in Australia – that cemented his pragmatism. He spent months learning the recipes of the Druze in remote Lebanese villages, cooking with grandmothers in Cappadocia and uncovering the secrets of Persian cookery in Iran. “We spent entire weeks immersed in a completely alien world. I learned not only how fragile I felt in these environments, but also how the challenges I faced helped me grow.”
Since then Arab cuisine has become an integral part of him. “Cooking conveys emotions,” he says. “My menus tell stories.” And their own as well, you’d be forgiven for thinking. While he talks, the sea glistens in the background. His T-shirt sleeves reveal glimpses of his tattoos. “Strength in hospitality” has pride of place on his arm, under which are the names of his wife and two children: his ingredients for a happy life.
Sunny view: scenic impressions of Port Phillip Bay.
In 2003, Mercedes-Benz created a new vehicle segment with the CLS; one that, for the first time, combined the elegance and dynamism of a coupé with the comfort and functionality of a saloon. In other words: a design icon where beauty is more than just skin deep. This third generation of CLS brings Mercedes-Benz closer to the charisma and character of the pioneer: with its extravagant beltline, contoured windows and low roofline, the new model is made of pure CLS genes. These genes are also evident in the dynamic driving features that have come to be expected of the four-door coupé. But this latest generation of the sporty CLS also has a more comfortable side. Optional features such as the Air Body Control suspension, Energizing comfort control and an intelligent infotainment system make the CLS the perfect partner for everyday use. Or a road trip like this around the bay of Port Phillip.