Meet the chefs

Ever wondered who the people are behind Ipswich's best food?
26 Nov 2020
Wendy Hughes, Journalist, blogger and social media smith

The Heritage City has a range of cuisines on offer with chefs that have worked in fine dining restaurants around the country and the world!

Josh Lawson

Josh Lawson, Bakehouse Steakhouse

Simple. That one word explains the approach of one of this region’s best known chefs, Josh Lawson, in the kitchen at Bakehouse Steakhouse.

“Simplicity and good product,” he says. “The better the product, the easier our job becomes.”

The menu itself is a simple affair too.

“Steak, chips, salad. It works. We have people coming in two or three times a week – they know what they’re getting and they love it.”

It helps that the Stevenson family behind this restaurant, set in a reclaimed century-old bakery, have a background in the meat industry and own farms, including one at Byron Bay that supplies premium pork.

Exceptional beef is sourced from Stanbroke for the steak offerings which are teamed with healthy seasonal salads and moreish fries.

Lawson has spent time in many prestigious kitchens including the acclaimed Brisbane bistro Two Small Rooms and BLVD with its open fire BBQ at Springfield, both of which he owned with James McDermott. Lawson has been in the Bakehouse Steakhouse kitchen since it opened in November 2018 and quickly began earning its place as a must-do in the heritage city.  

Ash Martin

Ash Martin hero

At the helm of this region’s much loved Good Food Guide-hatted restaurant, Homage, Ash Martin exudes a humble, heart-felt respect for local produce and the people who grow it.

The restaurant, set in the homestead that is the jewel in the crown of this extensive Spicers Retreats property, wraps itself around an ethos of smoke, fire and coals.

The menu offers up real food, sourced from around the region – often coaxed up from the ground by producers specifically for this kitchen – and from on-site gardens. And while handled with care to maintain integrity, this food is also gently subjected to exemplary technique to keep the diner guessing.

Guests staying at the retreat and visitors here to dine are encouraged to enjoy interactive experiences such as a market garden tour, sunset wine and cheese sessions and cellar tastings in a custom built wine room.

“So, it’s a little bit more than just eating your food and going home,” he says.

Shawn Breen

Shannon Ellison and Shawn Breen

Shawn brings some serious American swag to the Ipswich food scene, having grown up in Brooklyn and worked in some iconic restaurants across New York City, Mexico and New Orleans. He’s cooked for Hollywood stars such as Meryl Streep and John Goodman (“He gave me a $100 tip for a steak I did”) and spent several years in Brisbane Kitchens before arriving at the home of 4Hearts Brewing, the Pumpyard in 2020.

At the Pumpyard he brings plenty of his US grassroots food respect to the menu.

“We are like a glorified food truck here because we are a small kitchen in a brewery and we just have to put out lots of great food, as fast as we can, that people can enjoy with a beer,” he says.

Burgers, pizzas and 16-hour smoked brisket are among the crowd favourites.

The Fat Pig was a popular pizza but Shawn took it up a notch and renamed it The Very Fat Pig.  

“I took all the veges off it.”

He’s injecting some Tex-Mex freshness into the menu for the summer, including a tequila and Super Model (beer) battered fish taco; a chicken taco with mango and jalapeno salsa and crispy bao sliders.

“We use the beer in the cooking as much as we can working with head brewer Kenny. He explains the complex flavours he’s brewing and we use them in dishes, like the Super Model pale ale in the fished batter.”

Shannon Ellison

Next door to Pumpyard in the busy entertainment hub that is the 88 Limestone precinct, you’ll find Dovetails where Shannon Ellison has introduced a more refined modern Australian menu.

Shannon has a background at award-winning restaurants in the Northern Territory and brings his love of native Australian ingredients to the menu here. Watch out for signatures like crocodile that he dusts with native thyme and aniseed myrtle then fries lightly then serves with a rosella compote, purple congo potatoes and bunya nut pesto.

He enjoys sourcing the freshest Queensland produce he can find, like the Mooloolaba prawns he serves with a creamy garlic sauce, and the finger lime he uses in his cheesecake spring rolls.

Mark Naoum

Mark Naoum

Classic European technique and modern wow factor inform the menu at The Cottage Restaurant where chef Mark Naoum and his wife Ange have created a brilliant fine dining destination in a restored heritage cottage.

It’s kind of elegant cuisine, showcasing premium Queensland produce, that you might expect to stumble upon in any of the country’s capital cities. But The Cottage is right here in Ipswich with a fiercely loyal following of those who know.  

There’s a fine wine list, including champagnes, on offer to enjoy with Mark’s brilliant French-leaning creations. The restaurant itself is spread over the cottage’s original rooms with more tables on the veranda and an outdoor option on the lawn for events.

Watch out for exceptional set menu offerings throughout the year marking special occasions such as Mother’s Day and Christmas. 

Fenton Keogh

Fenton Keogh

Fenton was perhaps best known for the French restaurant, Fentons, that he ran in Ipswich for more than a decade. That was until he fired up the smoker in 2020 and garnered a whole new league of followers!

He and wife Lisa have run weddings and events at The Ipswich Club for some time now but when Co-vid shut the door on big gatherings early in 2020, they needed to come up with a new take-away option for people.

So Fenton rolled out a huge custom-built smoker to the front lawn of the heritage-listed landmark and began offering Fenton’s Fired Up on Saturday afternoons – and the crowds started coming! Fenton created beautiful on-trend sides to go with his slow smoked brisket and chicken wings and with a price-point that people also loved his concept was a smash hit.

Weddings and events are back in full swing again now but the fired-up option is still happening on a regular basis and can be booked for events. Follow the Facebook page for updates.

 

Chef Rana

Chef Rana Indian Mehfil

For more than a decade now, Indian Mehfil has brought colourful Indian food to the Ipswich dining scene and Chef Rana has been in the kitchen for six of those years. 

Orignally from a small village, Falenda Tehri Garhwal, in the northern state of Uttrakhand, he specialises in northern Indian and Mughlai style cuisines which he honed while working with the Peninsula chain of hotels in Bombay and Muscat, Uman, in the early 1990s.  

Since arriving in Australia and calling Ipswich home, his career highlights have included cooking for the Indian cricket team when they played in Brisbane in 2015. 

Chef Rana’s personal favourite dishes include Pahari Bkra (goat), Kamal Kakdi and Tawa Chicken – be sure to watch for these delicious nuanced dishes on the Indian Mehfil menu as they make regular appearances as specials. 

Wendy Hughes Journalist, blogger and social media smith
Wendy Hughes has meandered through a long career as a journalist, often with a fork in one hand.. or a glass. She spent several years as a food writer at the Sunday Mail and reviewed for various magazines. These days Wendy produces content and runs social media within the tourism, hospitality and travel sectors. Email [email protected]

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