Ryan Squires, executive chef and owner, esquire

I would spend ten million dollars on our botanical gardens, build a world-class aquarium – after all we are the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and build a world-class wave pool.

It takes a belly full of fire and fierce confidence to forge your own path. When Ryan Squires returned to Brisbane after spending time in some of the finest kitchens around the world, including stints at elBulli in Spain and The French Laundry in California, he was ready to create change in the food industry. Ryan had cemented his reputation as a chef and soon became a leader and an integral part of the local gastronomic fabric, known for his creative approach to cooking. Now at the helm of esquire, Brisbane’s three-hat restaurant, Ryan continues to challenge conventional notions of dining by providing inventive degustation dining experiences.

What is stimulating you in the food industry at the moment?
Seafood and cucumbers at the moment. I have four more years on my lease and a particular goal that I would like to achieve between now and then.

Name a restaurant you would love to eat at but haven’t yet?
Maaemo Oslo.

What do you love about the food industry? Why were you drawn to it?
Being an owner/operator and not an employee has taken away a lot of what I loved about the industry. I actually wanted to be hotelier. I guess the travel as a young boy with family was the influencer.

The food industry in Brisbane is constantly changing. What’s your opinion on all the change in the industry?
My honest opinion is that there are too many venues, for a start! They have absolutely no credit behind them and people wonder why they have cockroaches in their noodles! Competent, fantastic staff are very thin in Brisbane. Too many people are opening venues with absolutely no thought or process, with multi-million dollar fit-outs and very mediocre offerings.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
I will go on an absolute bender for three days and sit at a desk, in a lovely environment, copious amounts of rations, great music, heaps of coffee and tea, and see what’s on paper after that. I go into deep, deep thought with a very special ingredient book, which I then manipulate ideas from.

What are some of the challenges you face as an chef in Brisbane? And, how do you overcome these?
Where do I start? Staff. Produce. No tourism. Limited purveyors who share the same thought. I simply adapt to my environment and work within my means. Brisbane is not Sydney nor Melbourne, and it’s certainly not New York City.

What occupation would you love to do, if you were not a chef?
Marine architecture. Boat builder or farmer.

In your opinion what makes a community?
Community is knowing where to be on a Sunday – an obvious natural border. And, lending a hand without having to ask or feel obliged.

We consider you a changemaker for our city, as you have helped define and shape Brisbane’s food industry. Do you think you have created change in Brisbane?
I’ve accidentally done well for myself. So, publicly no, but I’m happy if my ambitions have rubbed off on Brisbane.

Who would you recommend as a changemaker in Brisbane?
The Jerome Batten group and Damian Griffiths group.

What is your hope for the future of Brisbane?
To have hope, you need to see opportunities, development, progression. I see a big gambling monstrosity in the making with not much merit behind it. Yes we will get a lovely new shopping centre with 50 new restaurants – blah blah. It’s purely fuelling a massive gambling issue we have in Australia, that’s going to attract one type of tourist. And, if gambling and shopping is it … well, I don’t want to be a part of it! Of course, build it but we are simply following not leading. Even if you flew into the Gold Coast for holidays and wanted to get to Noosa for a couple of days you would simply bypass Brisbane by driving under the city in its new tunnel. This current Queensland Government hasn’t got a single creative bone within them. Three cheers to GOMA, CityCats (which should be darting to Moreton Island from the city centre), and our beautiful islands that we have offshore – that hardly anyone uses. I would spend ten million dollars on our botanical gardens, build a world-class aquarium – after all we are the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and build a world-class wave pool. I would put better restriction laws on opening food venues. Who got rid of all the public jetties? I would also clean the river, demolish Expo 88 artwork still hanging around and farm fish in the bay. The true original people of Brisbane should also look after the flora and fauna.

What’s a question you would love to be asked in an interview and what is your answer?
What would you like to do beyond 60 years old? I would like to be the mayor of the Gold Coast.

Favourite meal: Blueberries.
Favourite author: I read everyday writings. I don’t have the patience for a 1000 page novel.
Favourite musician: Beirut.
Favourite architect: Many! Kirsti Simpson.
Favourite location: Lady Musgrave Island. Napa and Japan.
Your idea of misery: Cooking for more than 70 people.
Your idea of happiness: A boat beached on a sand bank, spring, no wind, crystal clear water, reefie, cast net, while watching the wallabies and eating whiting with lemon.


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