Luke Southwood: Public CBD’s New Head Chef

After a decade in Byron Bay, new Public CBD Head Chef Luke Southwood says Adelaide’s food scene has matured in the time he’s been away and he’s looking forward to contributing to it.

Southwood was Head Chef at Byron Bay’s award-winning Dish before moving to The Sanctuary, the ‘world’s most exclusive rehab’ as its Catering Manager. While the Spanish-trained chef was at Dish, the restaurant was awarded a Chef’s Hat from the Sydney Morning Herald (2004-06) and one star from Gourmet Traveller (2005-06). Southwood’s career suffered a set back after a car accident in 2010 but a call to compete in MasterChef Professionals, under the mentorship of Marco Pierre White, reignited the fire in his belly. After the MasterChef experience (where Southwood finished eighth in the competition featuring professional chefs), Southwood returned to South Australia, the state where he worked at institutions such as d’arry’s Verandah and Port Elliot’s Flying Fish Cafe and alongside local icons such as Maggie Beer. As Public CBD’s new Head Chef, Southwood replaces the Restaurant & Catering Awards 2013 Chef of the Year, Stewart Wesson, who will open his own restaurant in 2014. “I moved back in July for a number of reasons,” Southwood explains. “I spent the last 10 years living in Byron Bay and my eldest daughter lives here. So, I came back for family reasons. Adelaide’s food scene has grown up a lot in the last 10 years. I came back without a clear plan of what I was going to do. The car accident I had a few years ago put a bit of a stop on my career but then this [Public] came along, which is a Monday to Friday breakfast and lunch gig, which is unheard of in this industry. It’s something that with my postaccident physical capabilities I wanted to give a shot. It’s an amazing venue with fantastic owners and I really love the philosophy they’ve got here. It just spoke volumes for me. “It is a very exciting time to come back and with the new Adelaide Oval, I think the North Terrace precinct is really going to bloom in the next couple of years. There are lots of funky little bars and pop-up restaurants happening and there are a lot of good chefs in Adelaide doing really good food. It’s nice to be part of that scene again and I’m just looking forward to bringing my own personal style and putting my own stamp on Adelaide.” Southwood said the MasterChef experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity. “I ummed and ahhed about it for a little while. My logic and reasoning was that if I didn’t do it then I’d probably regret it because it isn’t the opportunity you get every day. It helped me regain my confidence… well, not necessarily confidence but just the passion, the spark and that love of food. MasterChef  was a very different experience – it was great and just got me fired up again.” On MasterChef Professionals, Southwood cooked under the guidance of Marco Pierre White, the talented and fiery chef who turned British dining on its head in the 80s when he was the youngest chef to ever be award three Michelin Stars. Southwood said White was an absolute gentleman. “Marco was a very genuine guy and took a lot of time to make sure that he spoke to all of the contestants and gave us tips every day. If we asked him a question on anything like a technique or something then he’d be very happy to share his wealth of experience. Rubbing shoulders in the kitchen with the great Marco Pierre White was really a magnificent thing and something I’ll never forget.” Southwood’s new menu for Public will be available from early January after the Franklin St cafe returns from its Christmas break. The menu will reflect his Spanish background and training. “My background is very much in Mediterranean food and it will obviously tap into Spanish food because that’s what I love to do, especially Catalan and Basque. Northern Spain is where my main influences are from, so you’ll definitely be seeing some Spanish stuff on the menu.” In Southwood’s words his menu will be: “Simple, elegant, delicious and fast with a lot of love, which is the main thing.” “Even when I was running Dish in Byron, which was a Hatted restaurant, [the food was] very simple in essence – it’s not 14 components per plate, foams and molecular gastronomy. I tend to harp back to the training I received, which was from classic Spanish chefs, and real old school traditional food done with a modern twist. I think the style of food that they do here is very much up the alley of what I do anyway, so it’s just going to be a matter of tweaking it a little bit to suit the venue really. I think what we’re aiming to do is quite casual, simple food in essence but quite elegant as well.”

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