By Hilary McNevin
Chef Ollie Hansford set the bar high early in his career, working at Michelin level in his native UK under lauded chefs Simon Hague at Mallory Court and Galton Blackiston at Morston Hall in Norfolk.
He moved to Brisbane in 2013, joining the Van Haandel group as sous chef at Stokehouse Q, and after good stints at Brisbane's Gauge restaurant, and a return to the Van Haandels with a move to Stokehouse, Melbourne, he went back to Brisbane as executive chef of Stokehouse Q in 2019.
“And now I own a spaghetti bar,” laughs Ollie as he chats to Mount Zero from Brisbane about his new-ish venue Siffredi’s in inner-city Teneriffe. Ollie is this month’s Mount Zero Hero and he’s talking to us about establishing a very strong following on his own terms at the popular spaghetti bar – and where Mount Zero fits in.
After lockdown kicked in across the country in 2020 and Stokehouse Q was sold, Ollie and two hospitality friends - Aleks Balodis and Stephen Overty – decided it was time to do something for themselves.
“We didn’t want to work for anyone else, so we opened what was to be a six-month pop-up serving good pasta and snacks,” he says.
The plan was to serve 40 customers a night but from day one, at least 80 were coming through daily.
“I was doing all the cooking and dishwashing for the first month, it was crazy,” says Ollie, “and then, we said to each other: we’re trained better than this and we need to work smarter.”
Ollie outsourced the pasta making to a pasta-making business who followed his recipe for Siffredi’s spaghetti. “I tell them what I want, it works well. We also hired a full-time chef, and now I do the pass and the snacks,” he says.
Needless to say, the venue kept going after the initial six months was up and they’ve signed up for another year’s lease.
Siffredi’s is ‘Italian’ by nature but not rigidly so, Ollie explains. “We don’t pigeonhole ourselves in terms of Italian food, there’s no Carbonara. But we’re a spaghetti bar, and we will put an Australian or Asian spin on pastas sometimes.”
This approach may see spaghetti served with Wagyu brisket, XO sauce, chilli jam and pine mushrooms; tossed with spanner crab, spring onion and crispy soft shell crab; or, like in the recipe he has shared with us this month, mixed through a Mount Zero Extra Virgin Olive Oil braised chicken and truffle vinaigrette.
Ollie discovered Mount Zero when he was at Stokehouse in Melbourne and used our oils and some grains.
At Siffredi’s his focus is currently on our oils. “Frantoio is our house olive oil for cooking and dressing. We use the Mandarin and Lemon oil too and have signed up for the Yuzu oil, we’re looking forward to that,” he says.
He’s also a fan of our Arbequina oil - the first of ours that he tried - and it still features on some dishes, like this month’s Mount Zero Hero recipe.
“I chose this dish because it uses olive oil in both its cooked and natural form. The braising of the chicken in the Arbequina Olive Oil was because I wanted that floral, buttery richness to braise the chicken, and then the Frantoio Olive Oil for its fresh, crisp peppery notes, heightened with the Mt Zero Verjus,” he explains.
“The diversity of flavours in the olives oils is amazing and working with such great product is always exciting,” he adds.
1. If you weren't a chef, what would you be doing?
Couldn’t imagine anything else - unemployed.
2. Last place you dined out?
GOMA - best food in Brissy! Matt Blackwell is doing amazing things.
3. What's your favourite Brisbane restaurant?
Gerard’s Bistro - super tasty food. Graze the whole menu.
4. Favourite season of the year for produce?
Like most, spring – fantastic produce, vibrant colours and smells around that inspire.
5. Do you have any special projects scheduled for 2021 or beyond?
Looking at expanding the Siffredi's brand and working with some exciting people.