Big-Hearted with Chef Andrew Wilcox
Deb Caruso meets a big-hearted chef who is passionate about local flavours.
Director of Food & Beverage
Park & Cove, Peppers Noosa Resort & Villas
How/Why did you become a chef?
I grew up in Tewantin and started working in a kitchen in Hastings Street when I was 13. I was looking for a purpose and wanted to get started financially and after qualifying I started to fall in love with it and appreciate it more. I’ve always had a deep passion for food and cooking and I find my passion growing stronger and deeper than I ever thought.
What do you love about being a chef?
The ability to be creative and experiment with flavours and ingredients. Also the people that I get to work with, particularly the growers and producers.
Tell us about your journey here at Peppers Noosa Resort & Villas?
When I was younger, I knew this place as a banana farm and when I first came for an interview here, I fell in love with it and believed that we could create some magical experiences.
I’ve been here almost nine years and have just been promoted to Director of Food & Beverage which I’m really excited about because I can bring the kitchen and front-of-house teams together with a shared vision.
Tell us about Park & Cove
It is all about local, from the handthrown plates and bowls – even the napkin rings – to every element on the plate. It’s a bold statement and brings our team a lot of drive to deliver and do justice to the local produce but knowing that we have the right foundations, support and the right mindset, it should be a success.
What do you love about local produce?
Local produce is fantastic because it’s fresh, supports the community, and allows me to create dishes that reflect the region’s flavours. That’s what we’re about – they’ve done the hard work, and through bringing together each element on a plate, we are able to celebrate the variety of local flavours and suppliers that create them.
Who are your favourite local producers?
Noosa Reds I’ve been using since the start; Noosa Natives – I can’t fathom how amazing their product is. We use their Lemon Aspen and Davidson Plum gels as well as fingerlimes, Midyim berries when in season and the yoghurts including the coconut yoghurt! I love Ten Acres Sourdough and Max + Tom cheeses, especially the Spicy Red Haloumi.
What is your approach to food?
Keep it simple and let the ingredients shine. I believe in using high-quality, seasonal ingredients and applying classic cooking techniques to bring out the best flavours in every dish.
Who would you love to cook for?
My family and team.
Who is your culinary inspiration?
A lot of people, particularly Matt Golinski, we share such a strong connection around using local produce and local suppliers and I’ve learnt that from him and others and am driven to implement that with my crew. I want to inspire the next generation of chefs to do bigger and better things than me.
Do you cook at home? All the time, I love cooking with my kids. Currently my youngest loves making flat bread.
What is your favourite dish – to eat or cook?
The Daintree Chocolate Melting Moment.
Tell me more.
It’s a reinvention of a classic dessert with a chocolate outer and gooey centre that is actually made from Eucalyptus leaves that we steep in milk for a few days. The flavours are amazing and reminiscent of choc-mint biscuits with
a freshness and mild native flavour that is hard to describe and easy to love. The feedback has been amazing.
What do you love about Noosa?
The beautiful coastal surroundings and the abundance of fresh seafood. The vibrant food scene in Noosa also provides endless inspiration and opportunities to collaborate with local chefs and producers.
Any advice for young chefs?
Work hard, never stop learning, and be open to criticism. Seek out mentors, be passionate about your craft, and don’t be afraid to take risks.
Favourite kitchen tool?
Noosa Reds’ Ox Heart Tomatoes
WANT MORE? Download the interview with Andy from our podcast.