Greg Malouf

Second heart offers another chance at long life

The Age August 1 2003

The Alfred's surgeons, led by Professor Don Esmore, took five hours to replace Greg Malouf's ailing donor heart, reports Amanda Dunn.

A flair for fine cooking runs in Greg Malouf's family. The renowned Melbourne chef has had plenty of opportunity to sample the family's culinary talents over the past few w because he has been forced to take a break from the kitchen.

Mr Malouf, 44, has become the second person in Victoria to receive a second heart transplant. In a five-hour operation at the Alfred, a team led by Don Esmore - who also did Mr Malouf's first heart transplant 14 years ago - gave him another chance to live a full life.

Two-time heart recipient chef Greg Malouf

flanked by transplant surgeon Professor Don Esmore

and cardiologist Meroula Richardson

Professor Esmore said a retransplant was required because the first donor heart had failed due to chronic rejection. Retransplantation was similar to the first operation, Professor Esmore said, but was technically more difficult.

Mr Malouf's cardiologist Meroula Richardson said one of the biggest problems for prospective heart recipients was the waiting list. There were many more people in need of a transplant than donor hearts available, she said, which meant that people waited an average of nine months, and up to 20 per cent died while on the list.

Since the Alfred began heart transplants in 1989, 420 people have received hearts.

Professor Esmore said the survival rate was 52 per cent, compared with about 36 per cent worldwide.

For Mr Malouf, the warning signs with his donor heart began about two years ago, when he started to feel the familiar symptoms of shortness of breath and tiredness, and his cholesterol reading shot up.

He was put on the list for a new heart, and then had to wait. After 14 months, the good news came through, and the procedure was performed.

Mr Malouf believed his heart problems had two central causes. The first was familial - both his parents have had heart disease, as has his brother.

The second cause was lifestyle. Chefs were notorious for bad eating habits, Mr Malouf said, picking at food all day.

For now, Mr Malouf has made an excellent recovery: he spent two weeks in hospital and has begun his follow-up physiotherapy and monthly biopsies.

Over the next few months, he will get back to work, devising new dishes for his restaurant, and will look at ways to encourage more Australians to become organ donors.

Greg was born in Melbourne, Australia of Lebanese parents and after serving his formal apprenticeship in several of Melbourne's finest restaurants, he went on to work in France, Italy, Austria and Hong Kong. Drawing on his cultural heritage, his European training and extensive travels, Greg has forged a unique style of cooking that has become known around Australia as 'Modern Middle Eastern'.

In 1991 Greg set up O'Connell's restaurant in one of Melbourne's best-known hotels. The restaurant won numerous industry awards, while Greg himself earned the respect and admiration of his peers and national and international recognition for his innovative food. Since 2001 he has been executive chef at Melbourne's Mo Mo restaurant, and under his direction the restaurant has won awards and critical acclaim from local and international critics alike.

Greg offers a wide range of services through his company "Malouf's Mezza". These include:

* restaurant consultancy and menu design

* corporate events including cooking demonstrations and special dinners

* kitchen design consultancy.

* Greg travels widely around Australia and abroad for master-classes and guest-chef appearances in leading hotels of the world. He also consults to restaurants in New Zealand and South East Asia.

He has recently released a range of Middle Eastern spices under the Malouf's Spice Mezza label.

With his former wife, Lucy Malouf, Greg has co-authored four award-winning food books, Arabesque (1999), Moorish (2001), Saha (2005) and, most recently, Turquoise (2007). Each has been widely-acclaimed and praised for showcasing the traditional ingredients and dishes of the region while also offering a window on Greg's unique modern Middle Eastern cuisine.