Mario Costa

Pioneer Year

2002 (Deceased)

Mario Costa was born in Bassano Del Grappa, a small town located in the Italian Alps, on the 5th  November 1917. He began his career in the food industry in 1937 at the school of Cookery in the northern Italian town of Genoa. Soon after completing his studies he was conscripted into the army where he served for nine years. After the end of the Second World War there were limited opportunities to pursue a career in cooking in northern Italy and, along with many other northern Italians, Mario decided to emigrate to Australia and arrived in Melbourne during May 1950. Within three days of arriving in Melbourne he began working at Marios Restaurant where he stayed for four years before accepting a position at Menzies Hotel as an a la carte chef. Two years later Mario was appointed second chef at the Australia Hotel working under the guidance of French chef Alex Chenevier. Alex was a most gracious and patient chef with whom Mario developed a very close and enduring friendship. Mario remained at the Australia for three years and then returned to Mario’s Restaurant for a two year period before moving to Florentino’s for a short time. Here he found the working conditions unacceptable and unable to convince the owner to modernise the kitchen Mario decided to move on. By good fortune Chef Chenevier was about to retire and Mario returned to the Australia Hotel as head chef, a position which he held for five years. From here Mario moved on to another of Melbournes’ major hotels. His good friend Harry Kahn was the chef at the newly opened Southern Cross Hotel and he convinced Mario to become his assistant chef. Mario accepted and remained at the Southern Cross for the next ten years. During a career spanning over 30 years Mario has worked at some of Melbourne’s leading hotels and restaurants where he made a significant contribution to the fine dining reputation enjoyed by these establishments. During the later part of Mario’s working life he decided to reduce the stress and pressure working in the kitchens of hotels and restaurants and accepted a position as assistant chef at Frances Perry House and later at the Queen Victoria Hospital when the catering officer managed to lure him away from the Royal Womens Hospital. During his career Mario has prepared meals and banquets for royalty, national and international celebrities. Some of his most treasured memories include preparing a banquet for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2 and Prince Phillip at the opening of a new wing of The Royal Women’s Hospital in 1977 and arranging the grand final dinner of the Carlton Football Club after their historic victory in 1970. During his time at the Menzies Hotel, which formed part of the Federal and Savoy Plaza Group, Mario was asked by the Savoy Plaza Management to prepare a special meal for Frank Sinatra and his guests after one of his shows. Mario decided to prepare a grand Italian banquet in order to impress the international star. At around midnight Sinatra appeared in the kitchen to personally thank and congratulate Mario on the superb meal and the fantastic centerpieces. In gratitude Sinatra presented an overwhelmed Mario with a monetary gift equal to his weekly wage! Mario was a keen supporter of and participant in many culinary competitions. He had a keen interest and passion for margarine sculpture and the creation of centerpieces and won gold, silver and bronze medals in state and interstate competitions. Mario shared his skill and knowledge with the many apprentices that worked for him in the kitchens of the hotels and restaurants in whiched he worked. Together with Alex Chenevier, he also judged the work of apprentices at the William Angliss College. Mario is a founding member of the Guild of Professional Cooks, a Master Member of The Australasian Guild of Professional Cooks, a Member of the Chefs Chapter of Catering Institute of Australia and a Member of the chefs Brigade. In his retirement Mario was still sought after by various Clubs and high profile individuals to provide his assistance and advice on the preparation of menus for functions and special events. He was always prepared to give freely of his time and expertise to anyone who asked for his help. Mario has had a long and distinguished career in the food industry. As a chef he believed that one should never comprise on the quality, preparation and presentation of food. In all of Mario’s’ work he always aimed to raise the professional standing of chefs and he, along with the other pioneers of the industry, has made a significant contribution to the standing that our Melbourne chefs enjoy today.