Brian Lizotte’s life has always been filled with good food and great music. For almost two decades, Brian has been the name and face behind Live @Lizotte’s, a dinner show concept that began in a restaurant at the Ettalong Beach War Memorial Club.
He expanded his offering north to Newcastle in 2009, creating an intimate, atmospheric and genuinely unique fusion of delicious food and outstanding musical acts at the former King’s Theatre in Lambton.
But long before he became known by Novocastrians as a purveyor of “fine food with a musical mood,” Brian had already forged an impressive career as one of the most highly regarded caterers in the Australian music industry, dishing up delicacies to some of the biggest local and international acts.
His passion for food and music began during his childhood, fostered by his father Hank, a saxophonist, and his mother Theresa, a fantastic home cook.
“I always loved cooking. My mother was a fabulous home cook, and later on in life, as I became a teenager, we had some amazing Burmese friends that taught my mum how to cook. All of a sudden we were eating Burmese food and Malaysian, and so we were always tempted by great cuisine,” Brian said.
“I was always into food as a young boy, and music obviously because dad was a musician and we all learned to play. All of my brothers and sisters kept us busy for all my life with food and music, so it kind of was no surprise in the end (what I choose as my career), it was either healthcare, music or food, they were three things that my family was into.”
The music clearly won out for his younger brother Mark, who went on to become a household name with his rock band Johnny Diesel & the Injectors, before building a hugely successful, and ongoing, solo career under the shortened moniker, Diesel.
But while food became the vehicle through which Brian forged his own career, it was also heavily rooted in both music and family.
After completing a diploma in hotel and catering management, Brian travelled overseas to the US (where he was originally born, and his older sister lived) and then throughout Europe, tending bars and working as a waiter.
He eventually met up with his younger brother in London while Mark was on tour supporting Jimmy Barnes (his future brother-in-law).
It was an encounter that would flavour the course of Brian’s career for the next decade.
Brian began chatting with Mark’s girlfriend at the time, Jep, who was also the sister of Barnes’ wife Jane, and discovered that she had been doing some catering at a recording studio in Sydney.
“I was like, ‘Wow, that sounds good. You know, I’ve got nothing when I get back to Australia, mind if I come and we hook up?’ and we ended up doing some catering at the studio,” he said.
“Then all of a sudden we got on so well we ended up forging this business, and we started catering for recording studios. From there it just flourished into record companies and then concerts.”
Founded in 1989, More Than a Morsel Catering went on to become one of the largest catering groups in the Australian music industry, working with recording studios and entertainment centres, and co-ordinating food for international tours.
Brian says it was an amazing time in his life, allowing him to go behind the scenes as some of Australia’s most iconic songs and albums were being created.
“It all started in a recording studio, and some of our first clients were the biggest names in rock'n'roll being INXS, Midnight Oil, and some of the biggest albums of the 90's with Ian Moss's Matchbook album and Two Fires from Jimmy Barnes and Wendy Matthews Emigre album and all of them went to number one,” he said.
“Midnight Oil's Blue Sky Mining, I did for three-and-a-half months and INXS’ Kick album… there was a lot of amazing music in those days.
“Just being invited into the studio and to be able to listen to some of those tracks before anybody else ever heard them, was amazing. A lot of Australian history was made in the studios with some of those bands that we used to cater for.”
Being in the studio, as well as out on the road catering a tour, gave Brian and his team access to some of the biggest acts from Australia and across the world at that time. The Lizotte’s website includes a long and impressive list of the “famous stomachs” Brian has fed throughout his career, with the musical heavyweights including everyone from ‘Ol Blue Eyes’ himself, Frank Sinatra, who used to bring his own chicken and rice soup, to the soul and blues dynamo Tina Turner, who has a penchant for lemon myrtle tea.
While he was surrounded by stars, Brian said he was never starstruck, instead enjoying the process of getting to know the musicians he was feeding and their individual tastes.
“I’ve got some great memories with Billy Joel, and the tour that we did with Billy and Elton. My daughter has been working with Elton John for about nine years now as a production assistant, so I've got very proud Dad memories now of when I used to cater for him and his tours and now my daughter is working with him. It’s been a bit of a huge buzz,” he said.
“And Billy used to come into the kitchen every night, and stir the pot and ask what was cooking… he’d often be seen at the stove, stirring a pot. That was one of my best memories.
“Then there’s my memories of Michael Hutchence and all of the INXS boys every night, looking after those guys. My wife used to be a masseuse and back in the days when Michael was seeing Kylie Minogue, they'd sit in the studio, and before dinner, Jo would massage them both, and then I’d be in the kitchen cooking and we’d feed them later.
“There was a lot of camaraderie, we got to know the musicians, and there was no stardom involved, especially when we were in the studio.
“You really did find out that 99 per cent of musicians are just people, and they’re really who they are when they're in the studio and especially when they sit down for dinner.
“That's probably my best memories, just getting to know some of these great musicians that we have in this world.
“A lot of the times my cooking was home-cooked meals because they didn't want the fancy stuff. They travel the world and eat in some of the best restaurants, they get wined and dined by all these promoters and live the high life, but you know, the old sausage and mash used to be one of the favourites, a lot of down-to-earth, homecooked food like mum used to make was what they used to really enjoy.”
Aside from his passion for food and music, Brian’s life is also flavoured by his love and dedication to family.
Brian’s wife Jo, who he actually met at one of his brother’s gigs in Sydney, worked with him in the catering business and was also instrumental in helping him set up and run his restaurants when he decided to leave More Than a Morsel behind in 2000.
"Then there’s my memories of Michael Hutchence and all of the INXS boys every night, looking after those guys. My wife used to be a masseuse and back in the days when Michael was seeing Kylie Minogue, they'd sit in the studio, and before dinner, Jo would massage them both, and then I’d be in the kitchen cooking and we’d feed them later."
It was this love of family that prompted Brian to move on to the next chapter in his career, with his catering commitments in Sydney and on the road forcing him to spend more time than he wanted away from his wife and daughters Sammy-Jo and Emelie, who by this time were all living on the Central Coast.
While setting up a restaurant close to home seemed like the ideal solution, music proved to be the missing ingredient in the mix for Brian, and a year later Live @Lizotte’s was born.
Offering more than the typical dinner show fare, Lizotte’s attracts an amazing line-up of high profile acts from across Australia and internationally, dished up with mouth-watering meals and an intimate atmosphere.
While at one time he ran three separate Lizotte’s venues, including one on the Central Coast and another in Sydney, these days Brian is more than happy to focus his energies on the sole remaining venue in Newcastle.
While the current COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works, forcing him to shut up shop, for the time being, he is making the most of the unexpected break from routine to throw his energies into his other relatively new role in life – as a grandfather – with his youngest daughter Emelie having given birth to twin daughters in 2018.
“I’ve got two beautiful daughters, and both of them have got incredible partners and families. My youngest has got twin daughters and they're visiting us at the moment, so we are spending a lot of time with them,” Brian said.
“Becoming a grandfather was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, that I will never take for granted. I spend as much time as I possibly can with them, that’s one of my huge priorities at the moment.
“We also bought a little motorhome a couple of years ago when I got diagnosed with prostate cancer, and I was determined to spend more time with my wife and just chilling.
“One of my biggest things is not to stress and to stop trying to build the empire, so to speak, and just be happy with what I’ve got.
“The need for wanting more is not necessary if you concentrate on what you’ve got in front of you, and just enjoy what you’ve got. And now that this (coronavirus) has happened to the world, I think it’s even more important that people think like that.”
GREAT NEWS! Lizotte’s is open again!
Check out www.lizottes.com.au for times and dates. If tickets sell out – don’t panic! Lizotte’s have now introduced Live N Streamin @Lizottes so you can watch from home. Live N Streamin successfully launched with the recent Greg Gould Album Launch and Mahalia Barnes shows. Check it out today!