What are Brisbane’s Best Chefs Really Eating? Josh Lopez

Josh Lopez at The Wolfe
Josh Lopez at The Wolfe. Photo Dan Fidler

In this ongoing series, Brisbane’s favourite chefs dish up their own dining deets for MyBrisbane readers. Where do they eat out? What do they recommend? What do they cook at home? And what secrets from their own menus are they willing to share with us? Dan Fidler investigates.

If you live in Brisbane and have a mouth/stomach combo in working order but don’t know who Josue (Josh) Lopez is, then you’re Brisbane-ing wrong.

Josue is widely known for his five year tenure as Executive Chef at QAGOMA, where he earned two hats among a list of top culinary gongs. The artful setting perhaps influenced his food-as-art mantra, but before that Josue honed his craft in some of Europe and Brisbane’s finest kitchens.

His resume is a hit-list which includes a stint at the famed Michelin-starred Noma (under René Redzepi no less) and Gordon Ramsay’s Maze in London. At age 24, Josue headed Two Small Rooms, one of only a few Brisbane fine-diners predating the haute food scene we currently enjoy. Josue’s notoriously creative dessert challenge on Masterchef roughly coincided with his departure from QAGOMA. In 2019 Josue and artist wife Krystal (whose large oil canvasses adorn the walls) took on The Wolfe.

Serving ultra-fine contemporary Australian cuisine, The Wolfe is unabashed in its goal to become a landmark Australian restaurant with seasonal menus and Josue’s ethos of food-as-art. If that sounds ethereal, the reality of the dining at the Wolfe is everything but. Yes it’s artful on the plate, but this is omnivore dining with a conscience. Working with producers and suppliers to source ‘retrospectively produced’ proteins results in quality ingredients with minimal impact. Using only sustainable line-caught Far North Queensland fish or heritage pastured poultry that live in true flock-like conditions means flavour profiles are more like they were in your grandma’s day than what you can buy at the supermarket.

With so much of what graces The Wolfe menu out of reach for the average home dinner, Josue is the perfect candidate to get down to earth with.

Where do you get your grub on, Josue?

When you’re part of the industry, it’s always great to see what’s new. We like to welcome new restaurateurs or check out chefs who are doing something new. It’s really important to go support the industry.

In saying that, I have a lot of time for good quality Vietnamese pho so we go to Chac’s Grill at the Inala Markets. I can’t get past their authenticity. I have the spicy beef noodle—just amazing—it’s got all the bean sprouts, the Vietnamese basil and a squeeze of lime to compliment this chili-rich broth. They also do an amazing coconut water. Chac’s is my good time food.

What do you cook at home when you knock off?

At home I don’t like to fuss about; it’s not like the food I make at the Wolfe. I always keep the ingredients for my go-to sandwich. It’s Kim-chi, good streaky bacon, ketchup and a nice rye bread from the supermarket that’s been treated like sourdough. This sandwich has become a little bit famous with our friends. It’s got veg, it’s got probiotics, and bacon makes everything amazing, so it’s like an umami bomb going off in your mouth. Otherwise, I do pasta with fresh produce.

What should the average time-poor Brisbanite be making at home instead of eating fast-food?

Choose good produce you like to eat that’s in season. Use a simple spice to bring out some flavour in your ingredients. It should end up on your plate still looking like whole foods with processed items like condiments being just the one-percenters. A good Dijon mustard or a pesto, for example, can really elevate a simple dish.

Also, get to know your local butcher and fishmonger. There’s always a different cut of fish or protein that can be whipped up quickly with a staple rocket salad, some balsamic and a bit of good Parmesan. So, good veggies treated with a bit of love and spice, a simple protein with some condiments and you’ll have an amazing dinner in three steps.

What do you think of the new not-meat, meat replacements?

They’ve got good intentions, but it’s challenging to understand why they’re so processed. Why someone who wants to transition into an all-vegetable diet would go for reconstructed soy and grains with emulsifiers is perplexing. It’s better when you can see and understand everything that’s on the plate.

If I was coming to The Wolfe for one dish, on a budget or in a rush, what would you recommend?

It would have to be our Wagyu dish. We always use Stockyard Wagyu – an amazing Queensland producer of good quality beef. For summer, we’re serving it with octopus terrine, Scarlet Prawn from Cape Moreton, beach greens and roasted beetroot. It’s our take on the Aussie summer barbecue. It’s contemporary but also nostalgic.

What should we absolutely try when visiting The Wolfe?

We’ve just launched the Artist Degustation in a yearlong collaboration with Brisbane-based artist Elizabeth Willing.  She’s a visual and performance artist who works with food. We’ve incorporated 10 of her art pieces into nine different courses. It’s a joyous, immersive experience combining food and art. The food is high quality, Australian and innovative. It’s also deliberately thought provoking. The menu is a dialogue with environmental issues. Think Wagyu tartar with caviar in a petri dish, Emu and Kangaroo with eucalyptus ash eaten with scented cutlery, or a honey and passion fruit floral desert in a beeswax bowl.

Enjoying this series and want to read more? Meet Massimo Speroni, Bacchus Restaurant Head Chef.