We were lucky enough to sit down with the pair to chat about career highlights, how they keep the vibes high, and what succession looks like for them thanks to AMP—the experts at planning for retirement.
Read on for a taste of the secret sauce behind some of the country's most acclaimed dishes.
What does a day look like when you're working together?
O: My day starts in the early morning. Often I ring my suppliers, make sure they have everything I've asked for, then come to the restaurant and get in touch with our general manager, see what's on for the day and look at the bookings. Then Luci will come in and we'll make the prep list.
L: I'll come in a bit later and check all the produce, ensuring every tomato is beautiful and that we've got everything we need to start prepping. We'll allocate who's going to do what, and I'll float around all our venues as I go.
O: She's a mini-me now.
Was there a specific moment when you both know knew this was what you wanted to pursue as a career?
O: Growing up in Bangladesh, when I was little, I was always in the kitchen 24/7—my mum knew I'd be a chef because I loved the food so much.
L: It was a little different for me as I had Dad as a direct source of inspiration. Growing up, I'd always be in the kitchen watching him. When I was old enough to start chopping or whisking, Dad showed me something and it came naturally to me.
O: I remember we served a massive lunch at one of my restaurants on Father's day. I came home and passed out on the couch, and later that evening, Luci, five at the time, woke me up saying, "Dad, Dad, I've made you something'—a perfect banana souffle. I knew we had another chef in the Khan family at that time.
What's been a career highlight for you?
L: One of my career highlights was doing the gala night dinner at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for the Henri Matisse exhibition. I designed the whole menu—there were about 400 people to feed—and it was all about the art. I got to create the menu based on Henri Matisse, the artist, while also adding our Metisse flair to it.
It was so beautiful to do something for the gallery where I'd spent many days as a teenager. It felt like my life was a movie at that point.
O: For me, it was when I wrote my cookbook, Sex In The Kitchen. One early morning when I got an email from Gourmand Cookbook Awards—which is like the Oscars for chef authors. I travelled to Sweden to receive the awards and met so many famous chefs I admire. I was no one, but I received three awards for my first book that night.
What's your advice for others looking to work with family?
O: If you're working with your daughter—agree to whatever she says (laughs).
L: It depends on what relationship you have with your family. If you're someone who doesn't spend much time with your parents or your siblings, probably don't do it.
Even when we finish work, we spend time together [and also] on our days off.
My advice is to let there be open communication and know how to read each other if something is coming up or someone's getting a bit stressed out, take a step back and talk about it and move forward.
You also have to be good at working in general. Dad's a fantastic chef, and he's taught me everything. It's so easy to work with him because it happened so quickly, and we don't even need to talk. It's just a natural flow.
O: The other important thing is for us all to enjoy it. For example, if Luci didn't want to pursue cooking, it would've been pointless to push her to do so—it wouldn't work. The family has to have the same passion and interest in the family business, otherwise, it's never going to work.
I'm very fortunate that all three women in my life, my wife and two daughters, are all in the business.
L: Because we have three restaurants now, we all have our role and can switch it up when needed. There's no imbalance of power—we're all equal—and it's quite beautiful.
O: I'm the hardest one to work with—I'm a perfectionist.
How do you motivate each other on low days?
L: There's always something to do. If there's ever a dull moment or we're bored, we're trying to create a new dish. We never stop, and there's never really downtime. Once in the restaurants, it's like, okay, let's go. That's it, and let's just do something.
O: And for me, on a bad day, I'll tell myself I've done enough and, maybe, it's time to retire and let them run it. Or think about another new project. But I believe everything negative can turn positive. For instance, lockdowns gave us extra time to consider our next menu. So we've planned them all until 2025 for all three places.
What are your favourite things about your job?
L: The adrenaline I get during a service—six hours can feel like thirty minutes. Another one of the great things about my job is seeing people eat the food and come back telling me 'that's one of the best pasta I've ever had'.
O: For me, it's saying hello to every table at dinner service and seeing diners enjoy the experience.
Have you started planning for retirement already? Why/how?
O: For anything in life, you have to pre-plan. I started seriously planning roughly eight years ago. The reality is each of us will come to that stage.
The way I look at it, it's like creating a dish. You plan it out, write the recipe and execute it—it's the same for retirement. You have to think about your retirement, get a safety net and get a solid plan.
L: I still need to start planning tangibly. I should be thinking about it because I want it to be calm and comfortable. Hearing Dad talk about it, though, makes me consider it. I'm young, but it's good to have at least an idea of what the future looks like.
Looking ahead to retirement, what would an ideal day look like for you?
L: I would like to be somewhere where there's a lot of nature and space. Maybe a farm or somewhere in the Blue Mountains; I'm getting all my loud years out now and think I need some quiet (laughs).
O: I don't know if I'll ever be able to retire, even after I'm retired.
In the future, I can see Luci—if she wants—to carry on the little empire or build out food chain restaurants. Jasmine [Opel's other daughter] is an incredible singer, songwriter and producer, so she will probably go that direction—so I think Luci will likely take over the restaurant business.
Part of the reason I've planned ahead is to write more cookbooks and start a charitable foundation. I also want to travel through Australia, I've been around, but I want to explore more of the country that gave us so much.
Being a chef is something I can't ever really step out of. So it's the freedom to discover more beautiful ingredients, including Australian wines while writing more books.
Whether you’re counting down the days or just starting to plan, there's no doubt the way we think about retirement is shifting. Whatever the stage looks like for you, the legends at AMP are experts in setting you up for retirement success—the earlier you start, the easier it will be.
Editor's note: This article is proudly sponsored by AMP and endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.
Image credit: Opel Khan via Instagram