Actor-chef finds ‘everything makes a stock’


Mirko Grillini finds joy in his backyard farm on the Sunshine Coast. Photo by Rosemary Dittmar.

Mirko Grillini represents his home country of Italy in almost every way typically associated with a land of boutique design, pasta and mafia. Mirko certainly carries himself with the air of romantic Italian hospitality, giving a wandering tour of his rustic Sunshine Coast backyard farm featuring statuesque horses, bantam hens and plump guinea fowl, the speckled feathers of which he picks up along the way. But Mirko is so much more than the Italian stereotype – he is a man in touch with the universe, and all that it has to offer.

To name only a few of his professions, Mirko has worked as a catwalk model, chef, pasta maker, cooking teacher and actor.

Mirko has followed his path in the pursuit of the art of it all, not for the accolades that come with catwalk modelling for major fashion labels including Armani and Versace, handmaking pasta for world-class restaurants, and eventually playing roles such as the assassin Terry Boke in Wanted (2016), Calabrian gangster Rocco in Underbelly: Infiltration (2011), and a pirate in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).

A person sitting on a bed
Mirko Grillini as assassin Terry Boke in Wanted in 2016.

Mirko left the modelling industry after he says he “…got quite bored in a sense because ‘ah, there was nothing to it’, you know? You just walk and you wear clothes, it’s not a personal skill, it’s your look and the clothes you’re wearing.”

Mirko then took the next step in his journey, bringing a rare taste of authentic Italian cuisine to Australian restaurants as a chef in the 1990s. Mirko had the idea to handmake pasta the traditional way with a rolling pin for restaurants, making kilograms of pasta at a time from his little home kitchen. This became his job for about two years, before passing his methods on to a friend who took the business to where Mirko believes he never could have taken it because of his artistic, but not so much industrialist, nature. His friend ultimately sold the business for a few million dollars. “This made me very happy, that I was kind of like one of the reasons why he took that path,” he says.

This experience was one of many that Mirko puts down to the wonder of the universe. “You know one of those things where you just go, the universe just exists, and there are other energies that are helping us through when we really want something,” he says. “When we really want something, and we don’t get bogged into the fears that we have around and we just start focusing on what we want, and we attract all these opportunities.”

Mirko landed a job teaching cooking classes through a combination of his existing culinary skillset and a chance connection he made working as a restaurant manager. It was this that saw Mirko find his current passion for acting. Mirko wanted to hone his speaking skills by taking a presenting course which prompted his interest in performing on screen.

He is now passionate to the extent that approaches method acting, as he utilises methods of internalising the characters he is set to play. Mirko laughs while he recounts one instance in which he had only three days to spend with his wife, who after two days asked “Can you be you now?” after he had unconsciously continued to emit the coldness of a character that he was building in the weeks previous.

Mirko sees a reason for everything and credits even the unfortunate events in his life for taking him to where he is now.

From his violent, delinquent father leaving when he was five years old, and his mother later changing the locks on Mirko, giving him the opportunity find his feet (and some adventure), he has taken these chapters of his life as tides that swept him along for a meaningful ride.

Mirko views life through the lens of the words that were imparted to him by his Nonna: “Everything makes a stock”: whatever you put into the metaphorical pot of life will leave you with a creation of your own making, with a bit of intervention from the universe thrown in for spice.