Offering an enticing variety of hands-on cooking classes in conjunction with the licensed cafe operating throughout the working week, Mark and Katrina Ryan’s latest venture, The Golden Pig, is lighting up the local cooking school scene from their converted warehouse in the Brisbane suburb of Newstead.
We asked the creative duo what led them back to Brisbane to open their own cafe and cooking school…
Katrina, you and Mark have worked in numerous high profile restaurants both in Australia and abroad, including Rockpool and Blue Water Grill in Sydney, and Spirit House in Yandina. You’ve also owned and run your own restaurants in Sydney. What was it that inspired you to open The Golden Pig in Brisbane in 2013? I had been teaching at Spirit House for 11 years and also on a regular basis at the Sticky Rice Cooking School in Adelaide. With our oldest child finishing school and heading to university, we felt the time was right to head back to the city and work for ourselves again.
Where does the name The Golden Pig come from? Mark took over a run down pizzeria in Potts Point in 1993; he turned it into a pizza and Mediterranean style restaurant and called it The Pig and The Olive. It was very successful and he soon opened a second one in Cremorne. We sold them in 1998, and had to change our company name (The Pig and The Olive Pty Ltd) as the new owners kept the restaurant names. We thought Golden Pig Investments Pty Ltd was an auspicious name and decided to use it for the school. And Pigs are cute, smart and delicious—in the words of Homer Simpson, a “wonderful magical animal”!
Mark, after the family moved to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in 2000, you retrained as a building designer. Tell us about the design of The Golden Pig. Our ideas gestated for a couple of years while we lived on the Sunshine Coast. We thought long and hard about the variety of cooking classes we wanted to offer—including standard hands-on classes, demonstration classes, wine and beer workshops, corporate functions, etc—and realised that the site we found would determine the scope of offerings as well as the limitations. When we found the Ross Street warehouse in Newstead, an inner city location close to the river, we immediately saw the potential. It ticked so many boxes: north facing windows; a high ceiling; a great sense of volume; and it was an open, lightfilled space big enough to do lots of different things.
The basic layout was planned with chalk on the floor around the existing water supply and bathroom facilities, which were already well positioned down one side of the building. We wanted connection and integration but also some separation. Like most warehouses, the building is a long rectangle, so there is a natural progression through the spaces; customers enter through the retail area, move into the lounge for ‘meet & greet’, progress through to the kitchen for the activities, and then finally move into the dining space for the culmination of the class. As for the aesthetics, we were determined to preserve the warehouse feel even down to the tyre marks on the floor from the previous motorbike storage business. We wanted the space to tell its own story rather than just imposing our identity on it.
What do you particularly love about the space? We love the light that enters the space. The long side of the building faces north and there are windows and openings on three sides of the building, including 2 x 4 metre high roller doors which are kept open most of the time. We think people are drawn to light filled spaces—it’s good for the soul, and for our plants!
Katrina, tell us about how you teach people to cook—what sets you apart from other cooking schools? We teach dishes that are interesting, authentic and of a high standard, but that are easy enough for people to reproduce at home. With my teaching background, I’m very aware that people want to get as much knowledge and hands on experience as possible out of a class.
Describe one of the stand out moments in The Golden Pig to date. Earlier this year, we held a tailor made function for a corporate client. They had a big budget and wanted a special event for 60 people. So we planned an interactive day of food and wine, which included fresh Tasmanian truffles, matched with Tassie sparkling, and with the truffle-grower himself presenting. We also had a presentation and tasting of top grade Jamon from Spain, followed with Sherry tasting, and handmaking Asian dumplings. The event culminated in a three course, sit down Moroccan style lunch. The clients were very happy!
What kind of changes do you hope your cooking courses might inspire in home kitchens around the country? We hope it inspires people to create good food at home that they may not previously have had the confidence to cook, and to seek out quality produce. We sell many gingers and Asian ingredients for the garden, such as pandanus and betel leaves, so we hope it encourages people to eat from their garden too.
Find it: The Golden Pig, 38 Ross Street, Newstead Qld. Call it: (07) 3666 0884.