Food and Family with Chef Sophie Phipps

Image source: Photographer Megan Gill

Rebecca Jamieson Dwyer meets the local chef who puts family at the heart of everything she does.

Sophie Phipps

Owner & Executive Chef

Spice Bar

Why did you become a chef?

My whole family love food, and the experience of coming together over a meal – both in my childhood and to this day – is always such a passionate, beautiful bonding experience for us. When we go away together, it’s never about where we’re going to stay; it’s all about what we’re going to eat! A bloody good meal is something we can all give as a gift to those we love, while at the same time experiencing it with them.

What are your career highlights?

The moment when you realise the people you really respect – both for the way they cook and who they are as a person – respect you back. That’s when you know you’re doing something right.

What do you love about being a chef?

I love food. There are no limits to what you can do or how creative you can be – the only limit is your own imagination. I also love how it can make people happy. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing!

What do you love about local produce?

Local producers know every single thing about their product, and I think that’s really amazing. You can see the origin, the detail, and the care that’s involved in every part of it. Plus when you buy local, you’re supporting this neighbour of yours, who can then afford to support that other neighbour of theirs, and it’s just this amazing circular network that’s created.

We love Daniel Street Market for seafood, Ten Toes for beer, and Sunshine Coffee for beans, plus we get our edible flowers from a lovely local lady called Min. When buying from these businesses we’re creating real relationships that help us all feel supported.

What do you love about the Sunshine Coast?

Everyone is so friendly. I’ve met quite a few local business owners and everyone has been so open and genuine.

What is your approach to food?

Produce dishes that, when you look at people eating them, you see the beautiful surprise of genuine pleasure and happiness within them – without compromising animal welfare or the happiness of your staff.

Who is your culinary inspiration?

Food is my inspiration! The lightbulb really goes off when I go to the markets. I’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, that’s the most beautiful pumpkin I’ve ever seen in my life.’ And a lot of my inspiration comes from eating with my family.

Do you cook at home? What’s your specialty?

Absolutely everything! I have three kids who are five, nine and 13, and we do a country of the world every Monday. They get involved and make a lot of it themselves; my kids know how to make fresh pasta, breads and roti and pizza dough, as well as how to julienne vegetables and season food to taste. I’m so proud that their lunches consist of olives, pickles, cured meats and crudites – that’s the kind of food they love to eat.

What is your favourite dish – to eat or cook?

I really love cooking the Tomahawk Steak when we have it on the menu at Spice Bar. The basting, the amount of time it takes – you just put so much love and energy into it. Slicing into it and seeing that you’ve cooked it perfectly is the best feeling, because you can’t go back at that point. You have to have done it right.

Who would you love to cook for?

My grandmother.

Any advice for young chefs?

Respect and patience. No one gets far in this industry without doing some dishes and learning from someone else who has made it to the top through genuine hard work.

Favourite kitchen tool?

My hands.

Favourite ingredient?

Aromatics like Thai basil, lemongrass, chilli and finger lime! I grow the Thai basil and lemongrass in my garden and I love how sensory they are – you experience them even before you eat them. Your body starts to have this amazing anticipation of something that it’s going to really enjoy. That’s pretty cool.

About the Author /

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Rebecca is a writer and editor with a passion for connecting people and brands through storytelling. When she's not writing or reading you might find her exploring cute hinterland towns, stomping along a forest track, or hanging out at the beach with her husband, two kids and rascally sheepdog.

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