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6 of the best Gold Coast chefs

Uday Huja, Executive Chef at Nineteen at The Star, Gold Coast (Image supplied)
Uday Huja, Executive Chef at Nineteen at The Star, Gold Coast (Image supplied)

There are many exceptional restaurants on the Gold Coast right now, our city has become quite the little foodie hub. It’s primarily due to the chefs at said exceptional restaurants who spend countless hours tweaking and perfecting dishes so we get to devour incredible dishes. And we’re pretty happy about it.

In honour of these chefs and International Chef Day on 20th October 2020, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best on the Coast so you know who to visit next time you’re in the mood for something special.

Uday Huja
Renowned Gold Coast Executive Chef Uday Huja made the move here only a few short years ago after a career that spanned high end Las Vegas hotels, Michelin starred restaurant The Inn at Little Washington and now, Nineteen at The Star (lucky us). He brings an absolute wealth of knowledge to the stunning venue and if you’ve not yet been in to experience his Oyster Journey, you’re missing out. It’s an honour to have him here.

Alex Munoz Labart
Head Chef and owner at Burleigh’s Restaurant Labart, Alex Munoz Labart is not only one of the Coast’s top chefs, but one of Australia’s. He hails from Sydney where he worked in (and owned) the best of the best restaurants and now he’s making magic for us in the form of modern Australian dishes that blow your mind every time. Alex lists Iku Yakitori Bar as one of his favourite restaurants on the Coast.

Adam Dundas-Taylor
Adam Dundas-Taylor has worked with some of the world’s best chefs, including for Jamie Oliver and London’s finest Nobu. He was the owner of beloved Firecue in Nobby’s and now, he’s joined the team at Broadbeachs’ Miss Moneypenny’s as Executive Chef to bring a fresh, new feel (and all of his impressive experience) to the menu. Adam lists Gemelli and Mamasan as two of his favourite Gold Coast venues.

Adam Dundas-Taylor, Miss Moneypenny's (Image supplied)

Guillaume Zika
With two Chefs Hats under his belt, Guillaume Zika is quite the chef for the Gold Coast to have claimed. He fronts the culinary team at Burleigh Pavilion (including The Tropic). Between the two venues Guillaume creates both casual, perfect-post-beach eats and a sit-down menu using only the highest quality produce. He says Restaurant Labart is one of his favourite restaurants on the Coast.

Kelvin Andrews
While Brisbane has now claimed this superstar, we still call Kelvin Andrews our own. He lists some of the Coast’s most revered restaurants, including Nineteen at The Star, The Fish House and Hellenika as his starting points in the culinary world and now is the Head Chef at Brisbane’s five-star SK Steak & Oyster. And he’s barely getting started. Kelvin says Alfred’s Diner is his favourite spot for breaky.

Daniel Ridgeway
Daniel Ridgeway is the local restauranteur who has made Gold Coasters dining dreams come true for over a decade with venues like Little Truffle, Gotham Grill & Rooftop Bar (recently sold) and four BiN restaurants all his creations. He’s worked overseas for much of his career and he’s absolutely earned every single accolade he’s received. These days you can find him at Little Truffle and Daniel lists Itoshin as one of his favourite local spots.

Daniel Ridgeway, Ridgeway Group (Image supplied)

Adam Dundas-Taylor

Adam Dundas-Taylor (Image supplied)

Adam Dundas-Taylor is the local Executive Chef who has rubbed shoulders with some of the culinary world’s greatest, but the Gold Coast is lucky to have him home. From working long hours at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in his earlier years, to serving London’s finest at Nobu Mayfair (rated the 10th best restaurant in the world at the time) and even cooking at Elton John’s wedding, Adam has quite the envious resume. But Adam wanted to pursue his own passions, so made the decision to relocate his family to Bali in 2013 and open the swanky Latin American restaurant Barbacoa, quickly followed by FireCue in Nobby’s Beach on the Coast. While Adam made the decision to close FireCue (much to the disappointment of those who ventured weekly for Adam’s expertise in charcoal grilled meat), we are excited to now see him join the Miss Moneypenny’s kitchen team as Executive Chef in Broadbeach. So we sat down for a chat with Adam on his recent appointment and to enquire if his specialty charcoal grill meat dishes would also be introduced to the Miss Moneypenny’s menu.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
Since my late teens..

What do you love most about living here?
I like the pace of the Gold Coast, relaxed yet there’s always something happening and changing, it’s also a family orientated locations and the food scene here is ever evolving.

You’ve recently joined forces with Miss Moneypenny’s, how did that come about?
I was in conversations with Director Ben Walsh when Miss Moneypenny’s was still in its construction stage, however at the time I was in Europe and contracted to  consult for restaurants in Mexico, so my overseas commitments did not allow me to be in contention for Executive Chef role of The Good Time Group. After I returned to the coast, Ben reapproached me to fill in and consult as they were filling the position. However, I really enjoy working in these beautiful spaces, with the best sourced products and the challenge of running two very different menus servicing both Miss Moneypennys and Fat Freddy’s Diner so much, that I have now formerly accepted the role of Executive Chef and I couldn’t be happier.

Talk us through the new menu you’ve created?
Miss Moneypenny’s transpired in Noosa seven years ago and our regular returning guests know us best for modern Mediterranean share plates, award-winning cocktails and world-class pizzas. I am enjoying this space and bringing my influence of BBQ fired dishes with a large showcase of seafood and sensational locally sourced produce.

Do you have a favourite new dish?
I’m really excited to launch our new Fish Pie, it’s taken me a long time to perfect! It is very unique and it’s a Sri Lankan-style fish curry, subtle in flavour yet so very tasty!

How does the rest of 2020 look for you?
Very busy.  Miss Moneypenny’s has already established a cult following at Noosa and now on the Gold Coast.

Tell us about your career as one of Australia’s most renowned chefs, how did you get to where you are?
I have travelled the world tasting and being influenced by all different cuisines. I guess I just naturally progressed. I’ve always loved my roles, I really enjoy the challenge of running a kitchen team, delivering beautiful dishes and being an Executive Chef.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast:
Cafe for breakfast: Upstairs at Wildernis Cafe & Bar overlooking the ocean in Palm Beach. Great spot to start your day. What a view!
Restaurant for dinner: I’m a family man, so I do like a family restaurant, Gemelli is always a hit with the kids and if I’m taking my beautiful wife out for dinner, we do like a night out at Mamasan.
How does your weekend usually look: (Chef laughs) Like the inside of Miss Moneypenny’s kitchen!

Alex Munoz Labart

Alex Munoz Labart is a relative newcomer to our sparkly city but, in the year since he arrived and brought Burleigh’s exceptional venue Restaurant Labart into our lives, he’s made quite the impact on the local dining scene.

At a time when the hospitality world is experiencing so much upheaval Alex, his wife Karla and the Labart team have come up with an idea to create takeaway dishes (of the same high quality) rather than opening their venue to the public.

We sat down for a chat with Alex about restaurant Labart’s ethos of sustainability, seasonality and simplicity and how this new plan is going to work.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
Exactly one year. My wife Karla and I moved to the Gold Coast from Sydney in April last year to open Labart.

What do you love most about living here?
We live in Burleigh and the ocean plays a big part in why we moved here. I love the Gold Coast’s sunshine and the beach weather that sticks around for the majority of the year. That, coupled with the amazing local community and slower pace of life. It doesn’t get much better.

Talk to us about the initiative you’ve just put in place to provide takeaway dishes rather than having diners eats in…
Labart at home will be available for pick up from the restaurant from Wednesday to Sunday afternoon and meals will range from $20-$30. An online ordering and payment system will ensure minimal physical contact and Labart’s high quality hygiene standards will remain in place, as well as the introduction of additional sanitization methods. We want to nourish people in a time when the world needs it the most. Dishes will be rustic, comfort food as we head into the winter months. Think Chicken coq au vin + mash potato, Free-range pork, chickpea + pumpkin casserole and beef bone broth minestrone. We’ll also have an offering of desserts and sides. It will be the same Labart quality to enjoy at home. Stay tuned for delivery to be announced soon.

Tell us about your career thus far?
I’m lucky to have worked with some of the best chefs in Australia like Mark Best and Brent Savage. When I was starting out, there were enough restaurants in Australia pushing the boundaries that meant young chefs like myself didn’t have to go overseas to learn. Putting myself in a fine dining environment early on really set the bar for where I wanted my cooking career to head.

Have you always known you wanted to be a chef?
Cooking has always been part of my life from a young age. My oldest brother is a chef and he pushed me into the kitchen knowing I’d love everything about it.

Why did you think the Gold Coast needed a restaurant like Restaurant Labart?
We’re starting to see a lot of people relocating to the Gold Coast from bigger cities like Sydney and Melbourne. They’re used to dining in restaurants of a certain level and we saw an opportunity to offer that on the Gold Coast. We wanted to give locals a restaurant with a high-end level of food and wine but without stuffy, formal service. For us, Labart is the kind of restaurant we love to eat at and we saw an opportunity for the Coast to experience that too.

You just released an autumn menu, what do we need to know about it?
Our menu is small but changes almost daily based on the high quality produce our local suppliers have available on the day. The change from summer into autumn means we have access to new season produce like pine mushrooms and artichokes. Keep an eye out for new dishes featuring these seasonal vegetables as they make their way onto the menu.

Tell us about your venues’ ethos…
In one sentence – Labart champions sustainability, seasonality and simplicity while hospitality remains paramount.

What are your thoughts on the Gold Coast’s dining scene in general?
The Gold Coast dining scene has grown up a lot in the past few years. There’s a move away from cheap eats and overly-themed venues and more of a demand for proper restaurants offering excellent service alongside technique-driven food and drinks. It’s an exciting time to be a Gold Coast local.

What do you have planned for the remainder of 2019?
We have some exciting collaboration dinners coming up with friends of ours in the wine and spirits world and we’re working on a line-up of interstate guest chefs who will be cooking one-off dinners at Labart.

Favourites on the Coast:
Beach: Burleigh – of course!
Restaurant: Iku Yakitori Bar
Bar: Lockwood Bar
How does your weekend usually look: Saturday and Sunday are work days for us but I make sure I still find time for the beach. The day normally begins by crossing the road for a surf, followed by breakfast on the balcony with my wife before I head into the restaurant.

Daniel Ridgeway

He’s the local restauranteur who has made Gold Coasters dining dreams come true for over a decade and Daniel Ridgeway isn’t done yet.

He opened Little Truffle, four BiN restaurants and Rivea Italian Dining in the last eight years and 2018 will see him gift northern Gold Coasters a rooftop bar and grill.

We chat with Daniel about Rivea’s recent move and what we can expect from soon-to-be-open Gotham Grill & Rooftop Bar in Runaway Bay.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
About 25 years. I was originally from Victoria and we came back to the Coast when I was about 13. I did go overseas on my travels as a Chef, through Europe, the US, Canada and Asia and then came back to the Gold Coast. After all the travel I didn’t want to go back to Melbourne and thought there was a lot more opportunity on the Gold Coast.

Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
Yeah I have. My family would always ask my older brother what he was going to do for a career. Every month we would go to my Uncle’s house, he was married to a Thai lady and I always used to help her cook, it was one of my favourite things. I remember an argument was going on and my Gran turned to me and said ‘ Daniel what do you want to be’ so I said ‘what am I doing now’ and she said, ‘oh you want to be a Chef’. Everyone asked me my whole life what I wanted to be and I had no idea what I was talking about but I always said I wanted to be a Chef. When the time came, I thought I’d give it a go having no idea what I’d gotten myself into but I just loved it. I was lucky enough to get that buzz out of the service and enjoy it.

How did your career come about?
I went to Tafe on the Gold Coast when I finished school and quickly realised if I was going to make it work I had to be in the best place possible so I started at Royal Pines. That was 20 years ago. From there I realised I liked the fine dining aspect of things and traveled to Melbourne to work in some of the top restaurants down there. Eventually I decided I needed more experience so I traveled to London and worked there for a couple of years in multiple restaurants, then to Canada and back to Melbourne. I was working for a Chef called Andrew McConnell who still has multiple venues down there when I got an opportunity to come up and open Room81 at The Sofitel as the First Chef Cuisine. It was the first time I had been given that role and I loved it and did very well and from there it transformed into doing it for myself.

Why did you decide to open your first venue?
When you open your first one it’s very emotional. You don’t care what anyone tells you, you just want to do what you want to do. No matter what advice you get, you do what you want to do. I opened Little Truffle almost eight years ago. I liked the corner location, there was nothing else around and I wanted a destination restaurant that was still accessible. Honestly back then it was probably the biggest mistake I could have made, it was really quiet and when the busy season came no one knew where we were. The first year was a struggle but I believe if you have the passion and the right product, it will work out. My thoughts are look after the locals first and the tourists are a bonus. Every year has been better and better and last year was probably our best. Now we’ve got Etsu, Glenelg and a bunch of restaurants around us and it’s become a dining hub. Just recently we won Best European restaurant in the country from Restaurant and Caterers so that was a nice little accolade.

How did the BiN phenomenon come about?
After Little Truffle, the focus kind of shifted to share plate dining and food with Asian influences so it was a good opportunity to do something new. We picked a little hole in the wall in James Street, which became BiN 12 – a bar with good food at a reasonable price and that went really well. We opened BiN 72 at The Strand in Coolangatta and got that buzz and just kept opening venues. We did BiN 232 in Pacific Fair and quickly after that BiN 89 in Broadbeach.

Why did you move Rivea Italian Dining to Broadbeach recently?
BiN 89 got hit with those massive roadworks on Surf Parade and we struggled with that, a lot of venues closed down but we pulled through. In that time we opened Rivea Italian Dining in Pacific Fair and that was such a popular venue so we’ve now moved that over to the BiN 89 space and gave it a fresh start. Having BiN 232 at Pacific Fair, less than a kilometre away you can still get your BiN fix. Rivea has been open for about a week now and we’re so thankful. We did a mini refit to give it that Rivea feel which is fresh and inviting. There’s white marble and stone and some dark wood. The cuisine is classic Italian and we just keep it as fresh as possible.

What have you got in the pipeline for this year?
Next month Gotham Grill and Rooftop Bar opens up – it will be mid-March. The one thing no one knows about Gotham is that it’s two levels of dining – so two restaurants in that one building. It will be Gotham Grill, which will be Little Truffle style but more casual, not so fine dining focused. At Gotham Rooftop Bar  there’ll be pizza, pasta, cocktails, wine and draft beer so very casual. There will be two menus and two different styles, it’s pretty special.

Thoughts on the Coast’s dining scene of late?
I think we’re there now, I don’t think it’s a matter of it getting better and better, I think we’re there. Where I think we’re doing the best is breakfast/brunch. That’s something the Gold Coast does better than any city in Australia. That’s one thing I think we’ve nailed almost perfectly. We just need to get ourselves more exposure because everything that opens up now is getting better and better. We’re very excited to be part of it.

Do you have any life advice for us?
Find balance. It’s one thing I still struggle with but I’m trying to add more balance into my life. It’s amazing when you take that time off and do life stuff, you come back and feel so much better than before.

Tell us you favourites on the Coast…
Beach: Burleigh
Café: I can’t just say one, people will get mad. There’s so many to choose from, it’s the best part of the Gold Coast I think.
Restaurant: If I want to go somewhere and be relaxed it’s Itoshin in Mermaid Beach. It’s all about the sashimi and sushi boats there, everything raw is amazing.
How does your weekend usually look: We try to religiously take off Sundays and take the dog to the beach or got to a restaurant. Saturday is my favourite day of the week because it’s purely operational in the restaurant.

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