Josue Lopez, Chef, QAGOMA

Listen to your inner voice ...

Food has the ability to not only bring people together, but also provoke pangs of nostalgia, swaddle us in comfort and celebrate our cultural roots. For the executive chef at QAGOMA, it’s a life passion. The kitchen maestro may have started his career rattling the deep-fryer and flipping burgers at McDonald’s at the age of 17, but these days he’s the man in charge of QAGOMA’s esteemed dining venues. With a passion for native Australian produce and a deep respect for his ingredients, the father of two has now dreamt up an impeccable new summer menu for GOMA Restaurant. Drawing inspiration from the gallery’s current catalogue of exhibitions, dishes such as smoked New England lamb breast with crisp saltbush, hay-roasted Dutch carrots and fresh curd are sure to please. The Weekend Edition popped by QAGOMA to talk childhood dreams and weekend essentials with the executive chef.

Describe yourself in ten words …
A passionate and motivated chef, husband and father.

What can diners expect to find on GOMA Restaurant’s new menu?
The summer menu is an exciting progression ever closer to my paragon. What’s important to me is flavour, presentation, using produce at its peak, not being wasteful and elevating the profile of even the most humble of ingredients.

You have a keen interest in using Australian native produce in your cooking, what are some of your favourite ingredients to play with?
Many people are familiar with kangaroo, which is now available in supermarkets – but I actually prefer emu fillet. Emu has a fantastic flavour, and less game and grass notes, while remaining a very lean, sustainable red meat. Other favourite native produce includes wattle seed and waterlily.

What are some native plants available in Brisbane that locals could be incorporating into their cooking?
It’s hard to go past lilly pilly, which is currently in season and easily found lining our suburban streets. The vibrant fuchsia ‘berry’ is an exotic flavour blend of lemongrass, ginger and apple, and can be used for more than just jam. Being cautious to know and identify the correct plant species, locals can also consider lemon myrtle as the herb makes a refreshing cordial.

If we rummaged through your grocery bag, what would we find?
Energy drinks … My wife says I have a problem.

What’s one foodstuff you couldn’t live without?
Smoked paprika from Spain, which must have something to do with my Spanish roots.

What five things complete your week?
Positive customer feedback; seeing staff develop their skills; discovering like-minded individuals, chefs, providores and producers; learning more about often-overlooked ingredients; and spending time with my young children and seeing the world through their eyes.

The last time something took your breath away was …
Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction and aftermath. My sympathy and prayers go out to all affected by this disaster.

Did you always dream of becoming a chef?
No, as a very small boy I thought the ultimate job would be to direct traffic as a police officer.

What influences and inspires your work?
Many people have inspired me along my journey, but the most influential has been René Redzepi at noma in Denmark. Working for René, I witnessed his passion and drive for innovation which has inspired me to develop truly unique and exceptional food.

How do you like to start your weekend?
Checking the overnight sports results on Fox Sports …

How do you like to unwind?
A long drive in the car with the windows down, playing good beats and stopping for a nice lunch.

What are your essentials for a well-spent weekend?
Family and friends – and if you happen to have a kitted-up Malibu boat, bonus!

What are you reading at the moment?
International food blogs, such as Spanish Hipster, to stay relevant in the evolving culinary trends.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement so far?
I’ve been blessed with some wonderful things happening for me both personally and professionally, but I believe we need to keep looking forward and take nothing for granted.

What does success mean to you?
Continually improving and striving beyond what you think is possible.

What are your words of wisdom?
Listen to your inner voice.

Only a local would know that  The World Turns in Brisbane.

Perk up … Getting my hair cut at Panic Hair Bazaar, St Lucia.
Relax … Anywhere at Noosa.
Dine … Mum’s Sunday family feast.
Indulge … A ‘dego’ degustation at a good restaurant like Esquire, Brisbane City.
Shop … Calibre in QueensPlaza, Brisbane City.
Catch-up … Oxford Street, Bulimba.
Be inspired … QAGOMA, South Brisbane.


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