Who is Joseph Wagland? I’m Director of Food and Beverage at Iconic Hotels by Geocon.
Best recent dining experience: White Chaco in Braddon – the best ramen I’ve had … ever! Also Pilot in Ainslie. The team there are really pushing it and I’m super impressed by their creative ability and approach. I’ve also had a few fantastic meals at The Sir George in Jugiong.
Most embarrassing pantry item: 2 Minute Noodles. The kids love them.
Must-buy ingredient: Koon Yick Wah Kee Chilli Sauce. Classic Hong Kong chilli sauce that is great on everything, especially eggs.
Next big thing: I think it’s the continued push towards small-scale, sustainable producers with the view to reduce our consumption of meat. I also think the way we source our seafood needs to change.
Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: Tilley’s in Lyneham. It’s a Canberra institution for good reason. The food has been consistently good for so many years. The breakfast dahl with coconut yoghurt, rice and roti is a winner.
My Canberra food secret: I’m not sure if it’s that much of a secret, but the Mysore Masala Dosai from Ruchi South Indian Cuisine restaurant in Belconnen is really good. We have this when friends pop over and they always love it.
Biggest culinary influence: It would have to be Josiah Li from Chairman Group. I worked on the floor at Chairman + Yip from 1998 to 2001, and it was while working for Josiah that I really fell in love with service. I learnt a lot about food, wine and management during that time, but mostly Josiah helped me understand the true joy of getting restaurant service right and how looking after a guest can be a rewarding experience. We had lots of after-work conversations about ego and how it can get in the way of giving someone an amazing dining experience.
Favourite cookbook: Longrain: Modern Thai Food by Martin Boetz. I make the crispy salmon salad with caramelised chilli dressing all the time for friends.
Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: I really admire my whole food and beverage team, particularly the managers and chefs who work so hard in all the venues. They’ve been through so much in the past year and a half, and I’m in awe of their positive spirit and their desire to get on with the job. When our industry came to a halt last year, it was tough, but these professionals have worked super hard to get our business back on track and I cannot thank them enough.
What’s on the menu this week: Two dishes from Braddon Merchant because I can’t decide which I love more. The first is Vannella stracciatella, mandarin, roast fennel seed oil and charred bread. The second is confit and grilled pork jowl, sugar snaps, dashi and fresh horseradish. Both are excellent dishes with a lovely play on flavour and texture.
Where I’m going next: Inka, the new Peruvian-Japanese restaurant in the city. I’m intrigued.
Death row meal: Pizza (not Dominos). Wood-fired classic Italian pizza.
My COVID-19 response: We focussed on what we do well and tried not to get too distracted with flipping our model. We did dabble in takeaway and pre-packaged meals, but for us, it was never going to be a core part of our business. We were lucky in Canberra that we did emerge into a new normal trade without going back into lockdown. This gave our guests the confidence to come back, and we tried really hard to make sure they would continue to return.
My really simple recipe tip: I made a gnocchi alla Romana from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Simple the other day. Man, that was really easy and super delicious. Add a rocket salad and we’re on!