The Trailblazer – Bonnie Shearston
If you’ve ever wrapped your lips around a delicious Red Hook cheesy, you have Bonnie Shearston to thank. As one half of the iconic HappyFat Group, Bonnie is responsible for some of Brisbane’s most beloved restaurants and eateries (we’re looking at you, Coppa Spuntino). Since settling in Brisbane as a British expat in 2008 and cutting her teeth on her former ventures Canvas and Public, Bonnie has changed the face of the small bar scene in the city through her innovation and attention to detail. Despite hurdles in the form of tricky licensing laws and a relatively fledgling small bar scene, Bonnie has helped pave the way for fellow restaurateurs who are keeping Brisbane cool.
The Educator – Angela Hirst
When it comes to the term all-rounder, Angela Hirst is a living example – as well as being a mother and business owner, she also wears the hats of cook, writer, blogger, researcher, restaurant reviewer and teacher. You probably know her best at the director of South Brisbane’s Wandering Cooks, Brisbane’s first incubator for food entrepreneurs. After cooking her way around the world and eventually gaining a PhD in Food Ethics from the University of Queensland, Angela used her knowledge and passion to create the food and drink hub we’re all so fond of. As well as putting on killer food events for the public to enjoy, Wandering Cooks also works to educate and help out those wanting to enter the industry.
The Messenger – Helen Bird
When passion and inspiration collide, it’s a beautiful thing. Helen Bird has turned a love of international street food into a vehicle for social change through Street Food Australia, an initiative that connects Aussies with street-food events happening all around the country. After noticing that our continent was lagging behind in embracing all things street-food culture – including events, festivals, markets and businesses – Helen hatched a plan to create an online hub for people to stay in the loop. Street Food Australia’s website and Facebook page provide a comprehensive guide to street-food culture, as well as a free platform for outside businesses to grow and promote events. It’s never been easier to keep track of the trucks, and we have Helen to thank.
The Visionary – Nerissa McCluskey
The Gold Coast food scene is absolutely killing it at the moment, thanks in large part to Nerissa McCluskey. Nerissa and her partner Mitch are the brains (and hands) behind some of the coast’s coolest spots, including venues such as Etsu Izakaya, the kitschy pop-up Aloha Bar and Dining and local fave Commune. Nerissa’s vision is to change the perspective that outsiders may have of the famous holiday destination, and has given this dream a push by being featured in Gold Coast Tourism’s latest campaign. If the success of her ventures – including the knockout Feast Under a Tipi – is anything to go by, we reckon Nerissa is definitely the right ambassador for the changing face of the Gold Coast.
The Guru – Samantha Gowing
Well before you were furiously ‘gramming sweet shots of your green juice and acai bowls, a lady named Samantha Gowing was creating and growing the ‘food as medicine’ concept. As the current chef in residence at The Kitchens, Sam’s combination of nutrition, fine dining and business expertise have cemented her status as one of the key players in the global push towards healthy and sustainable eating. As well as the raw drive, Sam has the credentials to back it up – she’s got a Chef’s hat to her name as well as qualifications in gastronomic tourism from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu.
Honourable mentions: Emma Milikins (of the Miami and Mt Gravatt Marketta), Kayla Hanna (of Kayla’s Specialty Coffee), Pixie Weyand (of The Zoo), Jan Powers (of the Jan Powers Farmers Markets), Katrina Ryan (of The Golden Pig), Michelle Christoe (of NightQuarter), Peter Hackworth (of The Peter Hackworth Group).