Career

Four Women Who Are Killing It In Brisbane’s Food And Drink Scene

By Catherine Blake
8th Mar 2019

Brisbane’s drinking and dining scene is in a constant state of improvement. Like an overachieving golden child it is forever trying to best itself, and has developed into one of the most exciting and innovative places in the country to have a drink or grab a bite.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we’re shining a light on four key players who have helped shape our dining scene into the rollicking landscape it's become:

Alanna Sapwell, ARC Dining & Wine Bar

Her passion for cooking has driven Alanna Sapwell to found the ‘hospitality industry meeting of minds’ Drinks With Chefs, and explore all different corners of the globe on an endless quest to hone and refine her skills into near-perfection. This thirst for knowledge makes her a stickler for training and meticulous research into the origins of all dish components, including the ingredients and traditional cooking methods, which has engendered a deep appreciation for produce. This has fostered a nose-to-tail philosophy that means there is no ingredient too wild or technique too experimental that she isn’t game to try. Sapwell brings this approach to ARC Dining, where she is head chef, and in doing so has discovered a new frontier for the emerging chefs to find creative ways to reduce wastage. Head here to see more.

Bonnie Shearston, Director at Red Hook and Coppa Spuntino

Together with business partner Tom Sanceau, Bonnie Shearston has skated on the cutting edge of Brisbane hospitality for almost a decade. Her first venture in 2010 saw Canvas completely change the game and raise the bar for the city’s cocktail craft. Two years later came PUBLIC and suddenly we were eating fossilized carrots and green ants. Then in 2015 Shearston brought English pub grub to West End with the London Fields gastropub. With these vastly different ventures, Shearston has left an indelible imprint on Brisbane’s dining culture. As part of her and Sanceau’s Happy Fat Group, Shearston currently runs lowkey Italian wine bar, Coppa Spuntino, and late night burger stop Red Hook.

Angela Hirst, Wandering Cooks

With one of the most calibrated visions in the game, Angela Hirst takes a unique and lateral approach to achieving her goals. Not content wearing just one hat, her colourful resume includes a stint in the Michelin-starred kitchen at the Petersham Nurseries Cafe, and even a PhD in food ethics and eating. The focus of her research analysed the disconnect between consumers and producers, which has made Hirst a champion of sustainability and business diversity. To that end, she set up Wandering Cooks, a multi-purpose space that provides the antidote to an ordinary dining experience. Since establishment, the Wandering Cooks community has forged a space for emerging chefs and food entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. Click here for her insights on food, cooking, and weathering the storm.

Billie-Jean Bray, The Gresham

Australian women weren’t allowed to drink in public until 1963, a fact that gets harder to believe after every encounter with Billie-Jean Bray. A gun bartender and fiercely passionate advocate of girl power, Bray is a mixing powerhouse with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of spirits (especially whisky) and a genuine love of the industry. During her time at The Gresham, Bray steadily honed her craft and became one of the city’s best bartenders, serving most of the local population at one point or another. These days you’ll catch her putting her spirit knowledge to use in the actual creation of liquors at the Lord Byron distillery.

Image credit: Alanna Sapwell

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