Food & Drink

Under The Radar: Three Young Chefs On The Rise In Brisbane

By Ranyhyn Laine
21st Aug 2019

Callum Gray At Corella
Callum Gray At Corella
Meg Thompson At La Lune
Meg Thompson At La Lune
Dario Manca At Za Za Ta
Dario Manca At Za Za Ta
Callum Gray At Corella
Callum Gray At Corella
Meg Thompson At La Lune
Meg Thompson At La Lune
Dario Manca At Za Za Ta
Dario Manca At Za Za Ta

August is Food Month on Urban List. Join us as we delve deeper into this delicious world with interviews, competitions, emerging chefs, best restaurants and more. Head here for all your food news this August.

The kitchen is the nucleus of a restaurant, and the cooks and chefs are the beating heart. This month, we’re shining the spotlight on three young chefs who are setting the standards for good food (really good food) at some of the most renowned eateries in Brisbane. 

Chefs are often the unsung heroes; the quiet achievers working hard behind the scenes in fast paced, grueling conditions—generally a labour of love. Below we pay homage to a trio of talented and inspiring young chefs who will soon be turning food heads across the nation.

Meg Thompson | Ex-Chef At La Lune, Currently Between Kitchens

Unlike the rest of us, who just book a restaurant for dinner with the gang, a teenage Meg Thompson used to spend her entire week’s wages throwing dinner parties for friends, and realised she could probably make a career out of it when she started writing menus for those gatherings months in advance. Tackling an apprenticeship at Il Centro, she then cut her teeth in the tiny kitchen at La Lune Wine Co, honing her skills even further (though she still considers herself, and all chefs, apprentices for life), inspired by the likes of Josh Niland of Saint Peter, who is “literally re-writing the book on how we cook fish.” Preferring to cook simple dishes with only a handful of flavours, she’s a big advocate for native Australian ingredients, and wants to help grow Brisbane’s already impressive food scene—we won’t lose this star to Sydney or Melbourne any time soon. So having finished up at La Lune, what’s next for her? “More study, more hard work, more full stomachs, and probably a few more glasses of wine.”

Callum Gray | Head Chef At Corella 

Simple, produce driven food—that’s what you’ll find on the plates whipped up by Callum Gray, who spends his nights in the kitchen at Woolloongabba’s swanky Corella. Inspired by the many different cultures and destinations he’s travelled to, Callum trained across New Zealand, Australia and the UK under impressive chefs like Richard Ousby, Isaac McHale, Jun Tanaka, Jason Atherton and now, our own Paul McGivern, owner of Corella, though he’s handed the apron over to Callum for now. Surprisingly, Callum says it was cleaning dishes on the weekend’s during school that made him want to become a chef (we’d be running in the other direction)—after being promoted to salad making, he discovered he'd found his calling. Oh and Ratatouille the movie—who doesn’t want to be a chef after watching? Thankfully, Callum doesn’t need anyone pulling his hair, and he unleashes his own creativity on the Corella menu with new, seasonal produce inspired dishes every month. Watch this space. 

Dario Manca | Head Chef At ZA ZA TA

Italian born, Dario knew he wanted to be a chef from the age of 13, but he’s certainly come a long way from cooking up Sunday feasts with his nonna in the tiny Northern Italian town of Omegna. After starting his career with an internship at two Michelin star restaurant, Villa Crespi, he then worked his way up the pans in the likes of Gordon Ramsay’s La Contrada, two Michelin star Met Restaurant in Venice and London’s Apsley, before moving to our shores and finding a home on Sydney’s northern beaches. Since then, after joining Giovanni Pilu at his Freshwater restaurant Pilu, he racked up a seriously impressive amount of awards: Best Young Chef of the Year 2015, semi-finalist for San Pellegrino’s Best Young Chef in the World 2017 and the Best in Australia at the Barilla Pasta World Championship 2018. Having made the move to Brisbane last year, you can find him at new Middle Eastern hot spot ZA ZA TA, creating impressive dishes that are as inventive as they are approachable, and we’d certainly be keeping a close eye on him for what we’re sure are even bigger things to come. 

We also took the time to chat to Adam Wolfers, Head Chef at Gerard’s Bistro, about food trends, exotic vegetables and when it’s acceptable to eat a late night kebab. 

Image credit: Judit Losh (Corella and Fish Lane), Supplied (ZA ZA TA)

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