Beloved St Kilda Restaurateur Kevin Donovan Passes Away, Leaving a Culinary Legacy

Kevin Donovan Passes Away

In a heartfelt farewell to the culinary world, Kevin Donovan, the co-founder of St Kilda’s iconic Donovans restaurant, has sadly passed away at the age of 68. His legacy as a renowned American-born restaurateur will forever be etched in the annals of Melbourne’s dining history.

Kevin and his wife, Gail Donovan, recently bid farewell to their beloved restaurant, Donovans, after an impressive 26-year journey at its helm. Their decision to sell the restaurant on August 31 marked the end of an era. Kevin had been grappling with an undisclosed illness for the past five years, rendering him unable to actively participate in the restaurant’s operations for at least three years, as Gail had revealed earlier.

The story of Kevin’s culinary adventure in Australia began in 1986 when he arrived on these shores to open the Hyatt on Collins, now known as the Grand Hyatt Melbourne. In this esteemed establishment, he held the position of director of food and beverage, setting the stage for his remarkable career.

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Fate played its part when Kevin interviewed Gail for a job at the Hyatt. Their connection was instant and profound. As Gail fondly recalls, “I went home and said to my housemate, ‘I’m going to marry that guy.’ I thought he was wonderful.” Little did they know that this chance meeting would lead to a culinary partnership that would shape the Melbourne dining scene.

Their journey continued with the management of the South Yarra restaurant, Chinois, before destiny beckoned them to St Kilda. Here, they took over the former Jean Jacques By The Sea, a beachside bathing pavilion steeped in history dating back to 1928. Transforming it into a culinary gem, they rebranded it as The Pavilion before infusing it with their vibrant, personal touch, creating the beloved Donovans in 1997. Alongside silent partners Richard B. Fisher and Jeanne Donovan Fisher (no relation), they breathed new life into this seaside dining institution.

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Donovans quickly became a culinary landmark, earning at least one prestigious Good Food Guide hat each year since its inception. Their culinary excellence was further acknowledged when they were jointly awarded the Vittoria Coffee Legend Award in The Age Good Food Guide 2016.

As Kevin Donovan’s culinary journey comes to an end, the restaurant’s new owner, Nick Parkhouse, reassures Donovans’ legion of loyal patrons that the spirit of this cherished establishment will remain unchanged. He promises, “What Gail and Kevin have created is one of the most iconic restaurants, not only in Melbourne, but Australia. It’s so revered and loved, and there’s not a damn thing that’s going to change. It’s my honor to carry the mantle.”

In the memory of Kevin Donovan, we celebrate a life dedicated to the art of gastronomy, leaving behind a culinary legacy that will continue to delight and inspire generations of food enthusiasts.

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