Will Cowper OTTO Brisbane
Originally from Sydney, Will Cowper has been head chef at OTTO Brisbane since 2015.
Before making the move to the Queensland capital, Will spent several years working for the Fink Group at OTTO Sydney, where he moved through the kitchen ranks to the position of Senior Sous Chef. Will’s food at OTTO Brisbane is unashamedly simple – fresh, seasonal, produce-driven, sourcing the finest ingredients and letting them speak for themselves. In truly embracing the move to Queensland, Will has developed close relationships with local producers, working alongside them to ensure OTTO uses the best quality ingredients available. Will is passionate about not only the food OTTO serves, but supporting farmers and growers in the wider Queensland region.
When did you realise you wanted to be a chef? Was it a lightbulb moment or something you were always destined for from a very young age?
From a young age I was always surrounded by food. With my Greek heritage, food is always central to everything we do together as a family. I fell in love with the way food brings people together, and that definitely had a significant influence on wanting to become a chef.
What are your strongest memories of your first kitchen job?
I started off working as a kitchen hand at a café in Neutral Bay. That was where I had my first interaction with chefs. I loved watching everything they did from prep to service – their passion really inspired me.
What’s the biggest kitchen mistake you’ve ever made (and what did you learn from it)?
Let’s just say never attempt to carry a 20-litre pot of hot stock down a flight of stairs!
Who is your greatest cooking mentor and what did that person teach you?
James Kidman was the Head Chef at OTTO Sydney while I was still earning my stripes. He really taught me how to work with people and manage a big team. He has a great temperament in the kitchen, more personal, and was always very good at communicating what everyone needed to do to get the job done. As I moved into running my own kitchen at OTTO Brisbane, I really took this on board in creating the same environment for our team.
How would you describe your cooking style at Otto? And what are the dishes that best represent it?
Simple, clean, produce-driven. Our Spaghetti with Champagne lobster is one of the dishes I would say really represents this. There’s nothing quite like it – it is so fresh and tastes of the sea!
Otto had a long and proud history in Sydney before the Brisbane outpost was opened. How challenging is it to honour that legacy but also look to the future and stamp your own personality on the menu in Brisbane?
Being a part of the OTTO team in Sydney for some time meant I had a really strong understanding of the restaurant, the menu, and what dining at OTTO is all about. I think working with and supporting local producers, farmers and fisherman in Queensland naturally itself makes me approach the menu at OTTO Brisbane from a different perspective, and allows me to put my on twist on it. The local produce available to us in Brisbane definitely influences the personality of the restaurant.
When you’re not in the Otto kitchen what is your favourite way to eat?
Simple – a BBQ and salad at home with my wife.
What’s the first thing you eat each day?
I don’t really eat breakfast, so the first thing I eat when I get to the restaurant is usually fresh baked focaccia with prosciutto or salami.
What would be your last meal?
My mum’s spanakopita.
What would your culinary tombstone say?
Pass me the salt.
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