AUSTRALIAN GOOD FOOD GUIDE - Home of the Chef Hat Awards
Justin Martins

Justin Martins




I started my apprenticeship at a Wildfire. While there I worked with 2 young Chefs who had worked at restaurant Balzac and would tell me stories and show me photos of the amazing food they were doing.

After my time at Wildfire I applied and got a job at Bistro Ortolan with Paul McGrath in Leichhardt where I got my firsthand experience in high-end food-focused fine dining.

Following Bistro Ortolan I worked at Glebe Point Diner where I worked my way to a Sous Chef position. Here I gained an insight into the management of how a kitchen is run and had a greater understanding of Modern Australian cuisine.

Following the Diner, I decided to expand my general Knowledge of food from Modern Australian and French to Middle Eastern and got a job at Kepos Street Kitchen with Michael Rantissi. Working under Michael, I understood Middle Eastern flavour combinations and how he refined classic dishes by bringing them into the modern era.

Following Kepos I made the move to Merivale’s Est., working under the tutelage of Peter Doyle. While working under him I was a sponge and learnt as much as possible about refinement, organisation and the key components between what is a great dish and an amazing culinary experience.

It was at Est. I had an epiphany to work at some of the world’s best restaurants. So, I packed my bags and went to London for 2 years. When arriving in London, I initially went there with an offer from Marcus at the Berkley where I worked for several months. It was here I was acquainted with Michelin-star kitchens but wanted to see utilise more molecular gastronomy and took a job at the two-Michelin star Dinner by Heston.

Here I worked on 5 sections in the space of a year and deeply enhanced my knowledge of how gastronomic ingredients are utilised. Following Dinner, I managed to get into the stagiaire program at The Clove Club (27th World’s Best 50) and The Ledbury (11th World’s Best 50).

One day, while working with Brett at The Ledbury, he got me to bring in a whole venison with him and broke it down while explaining to me how he hunted it at 4am that day and how to break it down, then what all the cuts were used for, which is a once in a lifetime experience that allowed me to appreciate and respect food on a deeper level.

After my time in London, I returned to Sydney and took up a position at Bentley Restaurant under Brent Savage as a Junior Sous Chef. It was here that I truly understood I was ready to open my own restaurant and showcase my creativity, technique, and skill from all my culinary experiences.

After Bentley I was toying with the idea of working as a Head Chef at another hatted restaurant but found the location for Oxalis and here we are.

Have you always wanted to be a Chef?

Yes, during school holidays, when I was grounded, I would get bored and bake. After leaving school, I thought it would be a good idea to turn a hobby into a career.

How would you define your style?

Progressive, I enjoy pushing the boundaries on ingredients and techniques by finding new ways to utilise Australia’s best produce each season.

What is your feature flavour these days?

In Spring and Summer, it was native river mint and in Winter it was the humble beetroot.

Obsessive-compulsive about?

Working organised and clean. I can’t have a setup changing every day on the sections and consistency is key.

Your greatest culinary influence?

Would have to be Peter Doyle. He had this humility to himself but he always took the food seriously. He always made sure that dishes were balanced, showcased modern techniques, utilised ingredients the best way and that it looked absolutely incredible and I try to engage this mentality with the food that I come up with at Oxalis.

What do you love about this business?

The focus required. Once service starts to get going, nothing else matters. You go into service mode and all other problems and issues that you have in your life are non-relevant in that 3-hour hit.

An ingredient you can’t live without?

Salt. It’s simple, yet can make the dish feel complete. I would rather starve than not have it.

Most ‘eyebrow-raising’ menu item?

Rehydrated beetroot. Many don’t understand why you would rehydrate a vegetable. However, when you rehydrate the beetroot, it concentrates the flavour and changes the whole composition of the texture creating a similar texture to venison.

Signature dish:

Koshihikari rice with black garlic, whipped macadamia and parsnip crisps.

Why should diners visit your restaurant and what can they expect?

Oxalis welcomes you to high-end dining. You visit to explore flavours, textures and combinations you would never consider. You return for the intimate environment, the passionate staff and the culinary experience.

What do you think the past months of COVID have taught restaurants and Chefs about their diners and the industry in general?

I believe that COVID has taught restaurants and Chefs about the importance of integrating and building a presence with the wider community. Without locals and dedicated customers supporting their favourite restaurant or Chefs, there wouldn’t be restaurants where people can build, maintain, or celebrate relationships.

Nothing is certain, one day big restaurants like Golden Century are thriving and suddenly they forced to close. Local diners supported the restaurant scene during and after the lockdown. It was great to see loyal customers buying food packages from restaurants and coming out in droves once the lockdown was lifted.

Tell us something no one knows about you?

I have spent hours watching Gordon Ramsay’s boiling point.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

Headlining my own two-Hatted restaurant.

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