Seaside Simplicity with Chef Justin Fitzpatrick

Image source: Photographer Megan Gill

Name
Justin Fitzpatrick

Age
31

Position
Head Chef

Restaurant
Spero Greek

How and why did you become a chef?

Being part of the Filipino community, they would always have large gatherings where each family would bring a dish – a pig on the spit, BBQ skewers, different rice and noodle dishes. These events would make me excited about food. 

When I was old enough to get a job, I worked at multiple restaurants as a kitchen hand and finally got my chance to hop on the line when someone called in sick. The rest has been my life.

What do you love about being a chef?

Being part of a team that can create amazing food for others on a daily basis. 

To see the look on people’s faces as they enjoy a meal you made is totally worth the hard work and hours that have gone into the dish.

What do you love about local produce? 

Our restaurant knows multiple trawlers that pop in with fresh produce all the time and allow us to pick from their spoils, which is always exciting, because you never know what will land in the kitchen.

Who are your favourite local suppliers?

Walker Seafoods, Mountaintop Mushrooms and Fraser Isle Spanner Crab.

What is your approach to food?

I’ve always been inspired by past chefs and fresh produce to strive to always do something that will showcase the main component of the dish. 

I focus on bold colours and simplicity. 

Who would you love to cook for? 

My father. 

He passed away when I was in high school and I would have loved for him to see what I have done and who I have become.

Who is your culinary inspiration?

Marco Pierre White – an absolute legend in my eyes. 

“Food is about generosity, and this should be reflected on the plate as well.”

Do you cook at home?  

Sometimes I do. I enjoy comfort meals such as lasagne, Chicken Adobo and BBQ meats over charcoal. 

What is your favourite dish ?

I’m an absolute sucker for great fish and chips. Crisp and fluffy thick-cut chips and thick, flaky white fish encrusted with crunchy batter or crumb. 

Sometimes the simpler dishes are the most satisfying.

What do you love about this region?

I love the smell of the salt air, the fresh fruit and vegetables and the local seafood. The people are relaxed and keen for new things. I can see the Sunshine Coast being the next big thing on the food scene with amazing chefs and great local suppliers all over the region.

Any advice for young chefs?

Learn as much as you can as an apprentice starting off in the kitchen. Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions and watch everything everyone does. In the kitchen, you learn more from seeing.

You can learn something new from anyone, even if the advice is don’t make the same mistake.

Speed and efficiency are key to survival. 

What is your favourite kitchen utensil?

My Santoku chef’s knife. If you treat your knife well, it will help you with your day. A shout out to timers too! Without timers in the kitchen, most dishes may be forgotten about in the heat of service.

What is your favourite ingredient? 

Any sort of seafood. But I have a love for octopus as it’s so unique in flavour and texture.

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