2 December 2022

Five minutes with Will Cowie, The Hungry Brown Cow

| Evelyn Karatzas
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cafe owner

Will Cowie, owner of The Hungry Brown Cow at Holt Shops. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Who is Will Cowie: I am the owner of The Hungry Brown Cow at the Holt shops.

Best recent dining experience: I would have to say the Dumpling King at Garema Place in the city. My partner and I loved it there. It was a fun, quirky little spot that had delicious and cheap dumplings. The food there was really high quality too.

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Favourite cuisine: I love Italian food, especially woodfired pizza and pasta. But, I also really like Turkish food, both cuisines are just so delicious.

Most embarrassing pantry or fridge item: Probably aioli because I just put it on everything. I always bring some of our house-made aioli from the shop home and I’ll put it on my sandwiches, it’ll be the dipping sauce on my chips and I put it on anything I am eating really.

Come and try the woodfired pizza at Pronto by Trecento. Photo: Pronto by Trecento, Facebook.

What ingredient can I not live without: Definitely potatoes. Anything I make has potato with it – whether it’s baked potato, mashed potato, a potato salad, or potato wedges, I can’t imagine making something to eat without it.

Next big thing in the Canberra food scene: I think I would say the move towards more taco places. The real traditional street tacos are popping up everywhere and I think they’re definitely in that next sort of wave of what’s out there and what’s trending.

tacos

Come in to Caribou on Tuesdays for Taco Tuesdays. Photo: Sophia.

Favourite place for lunch in the ACT: I don’t really get a chance to go out for lunch because I’m pretty much open every day, but if I was to go to somewhere for lunch, I would go to the Turkish takeaway in Yarralumla – the Yarralumla Turkish Halal Pide House as they make the greatest kebabs.

They’re just always so delicious. They make everything from scratch, including their bread. They just pack everything in them, they’re always fully loaded with meat, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and your sauces, etc. I have never had one that I thought that was ‘just OK’, they are always just delicious and massive.

My go-to coffee spot in Canberra: I’ve got to be honest, I appreciate coffee and the people who drink it, but I’ve never been a person who enjoys it.

People have tried to convert me to try coffee, like coffee with caramel syrup or like a little half-strength cappuccino or whatever, but the flavour just doesn’t appeal to me at all.

A must-try on our menu: Probably our Kevin Bacon, which is our beef burger with our house-made sauce on it, loaded with pickles, onions and lettuce and our Paolo Escobar.

The Pollo Escobar is our newest burger. It’s a fried chicken burger, but it’s kind of jazzier and funkier than your typical chicken burger. It’s got the jalapeno aioli, and the Mexican red sauce and fried shallots and the combo just works really well.

burger

The Pollo Escobar burger is a new favourite at The Hungry Brown Cow. Photo: The Hungry Brown Cow.

Our most used ingredient at The Hungry Brown Cow: It would probably be a pretty close tie between aioli, onion and pickles. Probably aioli because we’ve got it on a couple of our burgers because we’ve got our house-made sauce that has the aioili as the base.

What makes us unique: At Hungry Brown Cow, we try to make sure our ingredients are of the highest quality.

We source our beef from a single-source beef farm outside of Canberra, we make our sauces in-house, we get our burger buns from Sydney’s Urbun Bakery and we just try and make burgers as fresh, delicious and juicy as possible.

Every time someone comes in, they know they’re gonna get a really high quality burger, with high-quality ingredients which are really tasty and really well cooked. We also make our own unique sauce – the Hungry Brown Cow sauce which is made of an aioli base with jalapenos and we’ve also got a maple aioli Mexican red sauce.

brownies

Sweet treats from Blondiez and Browniez available at The Hungry Brown Cow. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Our top pick from our desserts: Desert-wise, we sell sweet treats from Blondiez and Browniez which are super popular.

A blondie has pretty much exactly the same texture as a brownie, so you get that nice, dense sort of chewy chocolatey brownie, but it’s a vanilla version.

When you make a brownie with all your eggs and flour and sugar you add cocoa to make it a chocolate brownie – with a blondie, you’ll add basically like vanilla essence. And then you’ve got like a blonde version of a brownie.

Our top picks are our Biscoff Blondie, and our M & M and Nutella Blondie. We offer about 10 different flavours and each week we bring out four options.

Biggest culinary influence: It probably sounds a bit of a cliche, but when I was younger, I was a fanboy of Jamie Oliver.

I was also lucky enough to meet him when I was in the UK, and from my experience, he comes across as a really kind of knockabout guy who loves his food and is really passionate.

I love his style of cooking and if you grab one of his cookbooks, it’ll say ‘grab a handful of’ these, ‘put a pinch of’ that, ‘add a splash of’ this, which is quite a fun way to cook, rather than following ‘use a quarter of a teaspoon’, ‘add 120 grams’, etc. His recipes just really appeal to me and make cooking more exciting.

Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver is Will’s biggest culinary influence. Photo: Jamie Oliver, Facebook.

Favourite cookbook: Definitely something by Jamie Oliver. He’s got really good cookbooks that feature interesting recipes that you’ve maybe never thought of doing before, which kind of expose you to new styles of cooking as well.

I can’t narrow it down to a single cookbook, but just the fact that there’s really familiar recipes in there, as well as a combination of recipes I’ve never tried, that really appeals to me.

Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: I really admire the Brindabella winery – they’re just really great and they’re set in such a good location with a great selection of local wines.

I’ve seen them grow within the food and wine scene, from going to markets and events and stuff like that and they’ve done so well. They’re really open to jumping out there, taking risks and seeing how things go and I really admire businesses like that, especially with family-run businesses.

menu

The Hungry Brown Cow menu stays consistent. Photo: The Hungry Brown Cow.

What’s the special of the week at The Hungry Brown Cow : We have done a few little things in the past, but what I found was that people love consistency and they know what they’re getting every time they come in.

A few times, we’ve created a burger and people come in, try it and love it. So then we decide to keep it. Our menu basically stays the same, then every few months, I might throw something fresh on there just to see how it goes. If people are into it, then I’ll keep it going, and if they’re not interested, it comes off – that’s how we work.

Where am I travelling to next: Just recently my partner Rebecca and I, we went to up north to Airlie Beach and had a great holiday. Unfortunately with work, it limits us to where we can go, but the next trip we are planning is hopefully Perth. I’m super keen to go over there and check out the food scene.

Dream destination? I’d say I’ve probably already visited my dream destination, which is Italy.

Before I got into the food business, I was a high school teacher and we had done two back-to-back trips to Italy. We did Venice, Rome and Florence, and we basically ate our way through those cities and that was my dream foodie experience.

When I was over there we organised a few cooking lessons with the kids where we stayed in the Tuscan region and got to spend three to four days learning how to make pasta, pizza and desserts.

If I could go somewhere else, I’d love to visit Turkey with Rebecca. The opportunity to just immerse ourselves into their culture and taste their food would just be amazing.

Death row meal: I’m not just saying this because it’s my business, but I’ve always said a great burger would definitely be my go-to. If you think about a great quality burger, it combines delicious beef and it’s loaded up with whatever you want on it, so for me, you can’t beat that. It’s just the perfect combination. It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s absolutely delicious.

Come along to No.10 Restaurant and Bar and try the combination of seafood and vegetables with their Italian baked fish with potatoes. Photo: Kazuri Photography.

My least favourite food: Definitely seafood. I appreciate that seafood is a good food and a great cuisine, however I’m just not a big fan, I quite dislike it. Everyone I know loves it and says it’s delicious, however the best I can do is a really mild, battered fish and chips down at Batemans Bay with a lot of tartare sauce.

My favourite vegetable: I’d have to go with potato … or maybe even pumpkin, roasted pumpkin is so nice and simple and just tastes delicious.

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My top three recipe tips:

  1. Firstly, depending on your recipe, prep is key – you have to make sure you’ve got everything ready first. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got everything chopped up and measured up and ready to go.
  2. Don’t go too hard too fast – I was always telling my students that if you rush and you put too much sugar in your food or too much salt, you can’t really get that out, so you’ve got to gradually build it up rather than putting it all in at once. It’s the same thing when it comes to using the oven. If you go too hard, you can’t come back from something if it’s been overcooked, so it’s better to take your time and if something isn’t cooked enough, you can cook it a bit longer.
  3. Trust your instincts. Sometimes, if I’m looking at a recipe and it reads saying I need a cup and a half of this, I’ll do it, and then taste it. Then if it’s not tasting how I think it should taste, I’ll add in more. You’ve got to add your own spice to things. It’s always fun to follow a recipe, but you also have to just kind of start adding things that you think would work in it as well.

The Hungry Brown Cow is located at 10 Holt Place, at the Holt Shops. It is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 9 am till 2:30 pm, and Thursday and Friday nights, from 6 pm till 8: 30 pm.

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