Formally recognised as one of the best chefs in Brisbane, Josue Lopez has taken the GOMA Restaurant from strength to strength, winning his second chef hat earlier this year. We sat down with Lopez to ask about all things Brisbane and food – and to steal a Strawberry Eton Mess recipe!
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FOOD AND ART AT GOMA?
Part of the GOMA Restaurant philosophy is to create food befitting an art gallery. A seminal moment was the invention of the Wattle Seed Custard wanting to pay homage to indigenous art for the 2013 exhibition ‘My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia’. A visual concept came before the flavours – it was meant to be an entree and is now our signature dessert.
“The people is what makes QAGOMA special. To see the team rally together for the hosting of the G20 Summit and to cook for our Prime Minister, The President of The United States and Vladimir Putin is a life memory I will cherish.” Josue Lopez
YOUR CAREER HAS TAKEN YOU FROM WORKING WITH GORDON RAMSAY AND RENE REDZEPI TO WINNING CHEF OF THE YEAR. WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
There are invaluable experiences that sometimes only happen miles from home. I was blessed to go to Terra Mardre through Slow Food International and learn more about ethical, sustainable, local produce and Italian tradition. Noma was a transformative experience for me as I was able to be a part of their development team for six weeks. I also attended the inaugural Mad Food Camp and absorbed the experience and wisdom from many world-class chefs – of course Rene Redzepi, but also Alex Atala and Andoni Aduriz.
Winning 2016 Chef of the Year was a formal recognition for the years of sacrifice and dedication. So I guess I would say career-wise I was most proud of that achievement.
HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORIES?
An obligatory bottle of champagne with my wife Krystal. I always give thanks for my blessings and the people around me who help make it all happen.
And now for some rapid fire…
WHAT WOULD MOST PEOPLE BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT BEING A CHEF? Most chefs don’t cook at home and they do much prefer to eat simpler meals.
BRISBANE HAS THE BEST… Balance. Not far from the beach, not far from farming hubs, not far from quiet, picturesque towns, not too hot in summer or too cold in winter, not too busy, but plenty going on. Lifestyle keeps us here.
I HAVE A FEW… children, well two. Is two a few? Ezekiel (4) and Jemima (5).
ON WEEKENDS I… spend a lot of time and money at household hardware stores. I am currently doing a lot of renovations around the house. I have recently poured concrete, tiled and plumbed our laundry!
WHAT IS ALWAYS IN YOUR FRIDGE? Good quality cheese – Australian, French, Italian and Spanish. It is our go-to food when guests come over or I want to chill out on the deck.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO? My Christmas holiday. I have always maintained that I would work all year just to have the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day away to spend time with family and friends.
QUEENSLAND STRAWBERRY ETON MESS
500g Queensland strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters*
250ml pure cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
pinch of salt or cream of tartar
110g + 50g + 40g caster sugar
6g agar agar
Vanilla ice cream, strawberry powder and edible viola flowers*, to serve (optional)
Preheat oven to 110ºC
Make the meringue by whisking two egg whites on medium speed. Once frothy, add the salt or cream of tartar and slowly add 110g sugar until combined and glossy. Using a spatula, thinly spread the meringue onto a silicone mat or lined baking tray and bake in oven until set – approx. 35 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside and allow to cool. Break into large shards.
To make the strawberry sauce, place half the strawberries, the water and 50g sugar into a saucepan and bring to boil. Once boiled strain liquid into another saucepan and discard the pulp. Add agar agar and bring to boil once more, then remove from heat. Allow to cool and set. Cut into small pieces and blend until you have a gluey sauce. Reserve and set aside.
Whisk the cream and 40g sugar until soft peaks are formed.
Arrange some of the broken meringue along with a scoop of ice cream into some small serving bowls. Arrange the remaining strawberries and cover with whipped cream. Top with the strawberry sauce and finish with shards of meringue, powder and flowers. (Serves 4).
* Josue sources his strawberries from the Strawberry Fields farms, and grows violas in his own garden.
WHY NOT START YOUR OWN EDIBLE FLOWER GARDEN TO ADD SOME GOMA FLAIR TO YOUR SUMMER DESSERT?
Josue’s Wattle seed custard dessert is available at the GOMA Restaurant.
Hear Margie Fraser talk about the now famous Wattle Seed Custard dessert. Fraser is the Brisbane editor of Vogue Living, Artichoke and Houses, and a writer specialising in design, art and architecture. Fraser has had a long association with QAGOMA and served on the Gallery’s Board of Trustees from 2010-2014.