Born: Auckland, NZ
History: Chef David Pugh is known for his down to earth attitude and approach to food. David’s continual search for the best available fresh produce provides his inspiration and the basis of the menu at his acclaimed Restaurant Two. David is known for working with rare and premium produce from carefully sourced suppliers, with a strong focus on Queensland produce. His use of classic technique combined with these fine ingredients and thoroughly modern flair are what place Restaurant Two in the forefront of contemporary Australian cuisine.
David’s love of cooking emerged at age seven when he would treat his parents to Sunday breakfast. “When I was about seven I used to do breakfast in bed for mum and dad. I would work it all out, trying to get the timing right so that the bacon was finished just as the toast had popped up and the tea was stewed. It became a challenge – how to make the perfect egg,” he laughs. “It was my Sunday morning ritual.”
Since then, David has worked with some of the world’s finest chefs, in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. David trained in Auckland, then at the Melbourne Hilton and then the Hotel Connaught in London for about three years with some of the world’s top chefs, including Russell Armstrong and Michel Bourdain drawing inspiration and skill from each and every encounter.
David returned to Australia, and worked in a number of Brisbane establishments, including Baguette, where he made a name for himself as one of Queensland’s best young chefs. In the early 90’s he commenced work at Two Small Rooms as the head chef when the owner offered him creative control of the menu if he took the position. For a creative young chef looking to make his mark it was an offer too good to refuse. In 1997 he released the cook book Two Small Rooms and a Kitchen- featuring the Modern Australian cuisine he’s become renowned for.
David opened Two with his partner from Two Small Rooms in 1999. Three months after opening Two was named by Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine in Australia’s top twenty restaurants. Since this time, Restaurant Two has won countless awards at a local, state and national level and is arguably Brisbane’s most awarded fine dining establishment. David has also been recognised by the Queensland Government for his significant promotion of Queensland produce, and was made the first Queensland Chef in 2009, a role he still has today. Thirteen years on, David Pugh’s inimitable cooking style and continued innovation ensures Two is placed amongst Australia’s top dining rooms.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
Yes, since I was young I always knew I’d have a creative career - I briefly entertained the notion of hairdressing but it was creating in the kitchen that I was really passionate about.
How would you define your style?
My technique is classical French, but I use produce that’s far more varied than traditional French cooking. My style marries old world technique with beautiful modern produce, which I think is the embodiment of Modern Australian.
What is your feature flavour these days?
We are really seasonal here at Two. The best flavours are the ones that are naturally available, so right now it’s summer and we are featuring stonefruit like peach, paired with light fresh crab.
Obsessive compulsive about?
Queensland produce - it’s amazing and varied - from Stanthorpe Apples to Crystal Bay Prawns we have so much at our fingertips, and we are really blessed to be the food bowl of Australia.
Your greatest culinary influences?
Michel Bourdain and Russell Armstrong, who I worked with at the Connaught taught me a great deal. I’m also inspired by a lot of the young talent working in our industry- like Brent Savage
What do you love about this business?
The variety and inspiration you get, there is always new produce to work with. I also love working with young up and coming chefs. In our kitchen right now we have some great young talent- they keep me on my toes and looking for the next.
An ingredient you can’t live without? Butter. Everything else I can do without or work around. You take away my butter and I am lost.
Most “eyebrow raising” menu item? The textures of white chocolate for dessert.
Signature Dish: The tempura soft shell crab is a perennial favourite.