Ms Michelle Garnaut AO

Michelle Garnaut AO

Michelle Garnaut AO is the founder and CEO of M Restaurant Group. She began her career as one of China's most celebrated restaurateurs in 1989, when she opened M at the Fringe in Hong Kong after studying a Bachelor of Arts at Monash.

It swiftly grew into a city institution, and in 1999, M on the Bund opened, the first independent restaurant on the historic Shanghai waterfront. Like its predecessor, it soon became a beloved oasis for locals, visitors and lovers of good food and warm service. In 2009, she opened Capital M on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Today, Michelle’s M Restaurant Group includes M on the Bund, and Glam, a chic Shanghai dining lounge. Over the years, in tandem with the restaurants' exuberant growth, an empire of cultural events has grown. She founded the Shanghai and Capital literary festivals, the Shanghai Chamber Music Festival and Competition, and the M Literary Residency. She’s also the co-founder of the Village People Project, which aims to improve the lives of villagers in rural China, and works to promote educating girls of rural China.

In 2013, she founded monthly Mentor walks in Beijing, rolled it out in Shanghai in 2015, and has since helped it spread further afield. Mentor Walks is an informal yet effective initiative where up-and-coming professional women can seek advice from experienced mentors. Mentor Walks now operates in Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and numerous regional Australian cities, and continues to spread around Asia and beyond.

Michelle is the recipient of 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 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.

She also serves on the board of numerous non-profits, including the Advance Global Board. In 2015, she was invited to the Legends Hall of Fame, which pays tribute to the leaders, groundbreakers and visionaries of Australia’s food and wine industry.

Michelle was in 2018 appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours for “distinguished service to Australia-China relations as a restaurateur and entrepreneur, to the promotion of Australian food, film and design, as a supporter of literary and cultural programs, and as a role model”.