They are the rising stars behind Brisbane’s booming food culture, and they’re learning from the best in some of the city’s most progressive restaurants. So if you haven’t yet had a taste of the talent to come, here’s an introduction...
22, demi chef, Otto Ristorante, Brisbane CBD
Woodward has been working in kitchens since he was 17, and it was while he was washing dishes in those early days, watching chefs cook and work during service, that he was drawn to pursue it as a career. Even before he finished his apprenticeship last year Woodward had shown his talent in the industry, winning bronze two years running in the Queensland Apprentice of the Year awards and, just months ago, judged Queensland Champion in the Nestlé Golden Chefs Hat Award (national winners will be announced on 11 September).
Already Woodward has been able to learn from the best, previously at GOMA restaurant, and collaborating with the likes of David Chang’s venerated Momofuku. “Seeing all the different styles from different chefs has been a highlight for me,” he says.
In less than a year at Otto, head chef Will Cowper has already predicted a bright future ahead for this young chef.
“The most inspirational chef to me in the world is... Alex Atala from Restaurant D.O.M in Brazil has a very inspiring story to me and I love what he has chosen to do with his platform for his local community.”
“The best advice I have received in the kitchen is... ‘whatever negativity you’re feeling in this world you need to find a way to channel it into some positive energy. That’s what’s going to help you be a good chef,’ from Ryan Ward, ex-GOMA restaurant.”
“Ingredients I’m most loving working with now are... citrus, because I have always been a fan of sour flavours. Fresh is best.”
“My favourite dish to make at Otto is... Lobster Spaghettini, and the Gnocchi or Truffle Carbonara when Giandrea Saccone makes it.”
“The key to a great dish is... freshness, balance of ingredients and local produce.”
“If I could go anywhere in the world to eat... I would go to South America; Mexico, Peru or Brazil. The South American culture and food has always appealed to me and there are some amazing restaurants there.”
24, junior sous chef, Stokehouse Q, River Quay
Sexton grew up in Toowoomba surrounded by farms in the Lockyer Valley and Granite Belt with a horticulturist dad and a mum with an appreciation for good food so shopping at markets and growing their own food was the norm. “Food was always the centre of our house; I’ve always loved how it brought everyone together and I spent a lot of time cooking with my mum and grandma.”
By age 10 she was already making five-course meals for her family and, thanks to her mother’s heritage in South Africa, curries and braais were part of her repertoire even before she became a kitchen hand at 14.
More recently she’s turned the tables on what makes a good dessert with a creation made from milk and cereal, showcased last year at a headline event during Good Food Month.
“The chef I have always been able to draw inspiration from is... Christina Tosi from Milk Bar in New York. After working under David Chang, she was able to change perception on how to enjoy dessert. Her style mirrors my own, simple and nostalgic.”
“My favourite dish to create is... anything that showcases under-utilised products or native ingredients. It’s a good way to keep in touch with the region I live in as well as supporting local business. I also love creating dishes that remind me of familiar flavours or remix classic dishes which are thoughtful and smart.”
“The ingredient I’m most loving working with right now is... yuzu. In season and super fragrant and sour. Goes perfectly with malted milk chocolate or using the juice in a buttermilk chicken brine!”
“The best advice I’ve received in the kitchen so far is... from my first ever job as a kitchen hand, when my boss told me “just assume everything is hot”. It saved me from a lot of burns over the years!”
“My favourite thing to make on the Stokehouse Q menu is... the miso caramel glaze for our duck dish! Salty and sweet caramel enriched with locally-made Brisbane miso that gets glazed over crispy duck skin and served with parsnip purée and Japanese plum. Preparing the black kingfish dish is one of my favourites as well. The fish is fresh as can be, thinly sliced and served raw, dressed with riberry gin and sliced desert limes, delicious.”
“My next go-to food experience will be... Japan. After thousands of years of food, I think there’s a lot to learn from the Japanese. Who would say no to ramen?”
21, chef de partie, Arc Dining and Wine Bar, Howard Smith Wharves
“Waking up almost every morning to the aroma of a freshly baked loaf of bread, a cheese and bacon roll and a finger bun sitting on the kitchen counter is enough to make anybody love food and want to know more,” says Claydon who grew up with a professional baker in the house.
“I learnt a lot about cooking from Dad,” Claydon continues, “but what sticks with me most is his work ethic. ‘Never walk away from your station and come back empty handed’.”
Such advice has given him a head start in a competitive business, and he got his foot in the door first at age 14. Since then he’s completed his apprenticeship and joined one of Brisbane’s newest go-to restaurants under the stewardship of Alanna Sapwell at Arc.
“In eight months at Arc I have learned... some great seafood techniques from Alanna and a whole new style and approach to food.”
“I’m loving working with... cascara and silver skin, both by-products from roasted coffee. It’s amazing how different the flavours are in each layer of the coffee fruit. We infuse them both into milk, then use it on desserts.”
“My favourite dish at Arc is... Jake Warhurst’s Blue Cheese Kipfler Potatoes.”
“If I could go anywhere in the world to eat... I would go to Restaurant Geist in Copenhagen. I’m really drawn to their simple and understated style.”