From Maccas to Modern Art: Food So Good, It Belongs in a Gallery

A life in food was guaranteed when Josh realised some of his best life experiences have been at the kitchen table or when cooking for others.

4 Aug 2016

For Josh Lopez, everything he cooks has a story.

As the executive chef at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Josh’s dishes are a reflection of his surroundings and inspired by both the latest exhibitions and local produce.

Having done a stint in Gordan Ramsey’s London restaurant, Maze, and Noma in Copenhagen, which is currently ranked among the top five restaurants in the world, he said it’s the local produce of his adopted home, Brisbane that he wants to showcase.

“I knew when I came back to Australia I’d want to cook things that were very close to Brisbane or reflective of Australia, that are iconic or have a nostalgic connection,” he said.

“The thing about us as a nation is that we’re willing to give things a go. I think Australian’s are really open to new things and that means as a chef that you can be really creative.”

And those dishes include anything from using locally raised squab (young pigeon) to his much loved ‘plate of bait’, made up of overlooked foods like pippies, squid, and sardines.

Though he was named Brisbane Times’ Good Food Guide’s Chef of the Year last year, Josh said cooking was a career he fell into by accident.

Having been born in El Salvador, he credits his mother’s vibrant meals and her fresh, home-made salsas, avocado and an array of local produce as a reason he developed a love of good food. And it was his beginnings at McDonald’s that taught him about the camaraderie of the kitchen.

“I believe that if you teach someone how to cook, it’s a skill for life. It can be really rewarding knowing how to eat well and nourish yourself,” he said.

“Some of my best life experiences have been at the kitchen table or me cooking for people. It’s so rewarding when people really taste the love you’ve put into a dish – there are few feelings like that.”

Check out Josh’s devilishly indulgent suckling pig recipe:

Suckling Pig by Josh Lopez

Suckling Pig, Chestnut, Davidson Plum, Blood and Fodder

Serves 6

Suckling pig


  • 9kg (1/2) suckling pig – split in half, bones and trotters removed
  • 2kg duck fat – melted, room temperature
  • 2L blended vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 110°C.

Place the suckling pig in a lined roasting tray. Add the duck fat and oil, cover with another sheet of non-stick paper and a lid and cook for 6 hours. Allow to cool slightly in oil and place onto another non-stick paper lined tray skin side down. Place a weighted tray on the pig Place in fridge and allow to firm up. Portion into 100g rectangles

Blood pudding


  • 30g pearl barley – cooked, drained
  • 30g buckwheat – cooked, drained
  • 30g wild rice – cooked, drained
  • 30g golden shallot – diced
  • 2x garlic cloves – chopped
  • 5g thyme – picked
  • 50ml canola oil
  • 15g yakajirri spice* (Australian native bush spice mix)
  • 30ml red wine vinegar
  • 250g pig’s blood
  • Flake salt


Sautee the golden shallot, garlic, and thyme in a wide saucepan on a medium heat with some canola oil until translucent. Add the yakajirri and cook until toasted. Deglaze with the red wine vinegar and reduce until dry. Add the grains and blood and cook until combined.

Continue cooking until dark and crisp. Season with flake salt and set aside.

Blood parfait 


  • 250g pig’s blood
  • 500g pouring cream
  • 75ml vincotto
  • 20g honey
  • Table salt


Put the pig’s blood and the cream in a thermomix. Set at 70 deg C for 1 hour. Cool, then stir through the vincotto, honey and season with salt to taste.


Chestnut – puree and toasted 


  • 270g chestnuts – frozen, peeled
  • Water
  • 20g butter
  • Table salt


Place 250g of chestnuts in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, cook until tender. Blend with butter and some of the liquid until desired consistency is achieved. Slice remaining chestnuts, dehydrate until crisp, season with salt


Game Jus 


  • 1kg duck, chicken, quail frames, excess fat and skin removed
  • 50g canola oil
  • 50g golden shallots, chopped
  • 10g garlic cloves peeled
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 200ml red wine
  • 50ml red wine vinegar
  • 2L chicken stock


Preheat oven to 180°C.

Coat frames with oil and roast for 30 mins until caramelised. Heat a saucepan with oil on a medium heat and add the shallots and garlic. Once coloured, add the peppercorns, bay leaf, and thyme and sauté for a further minute. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and vinegar. Reduce until thick. Add the bones and stock and simmer for 1 hour. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve into a new saucepan, discarding the solids. Place back on medium-low heat and reduce until slightly thick.


Davidson Plum gel


  • 300g Davidson plum
  • Water
  • 30g sugar
  • 3g agar agar


Place the Davidson plum, and water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, simmer until tender. Allow to cool slightly before blending. Pass through a fine strainer and reserve the liquid. Measure out 300ml and add the agar agar. Bring to boil and place into a container.  Allow to set in the fridge. Blend the set jelly until smooth. Set aside.



  • Carrot tips, celery tops or tired herbs (such as red vein sorrel, star tendrils, chickpea tendrils)
  • Olive oil


Gently heat fodder until tender and dress with olive oil.

Plating of recipe

Cook the suckling pig skin side down until crisp.

Place a spoonful of chestnut puree off centre on a plate. Top with a spoonful of blood puree; spread this to cover the chestnut puree. Sprinkle some of the blood pudding until the blood puree is covered. Dot with Davidson plum gel and arrange the fodder and the toasted chestnut on top. Place the suckling pig next to the stack of blood pudding. Sauce with the game jus and serve.


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