Forever a country girl at heart, Savannah Sexton says it is the bountiful variety of produce available in Australia that has inspired her culinary career.

Growing up in Toowoomba, Sexton was introduced to an array of local produce from a young age. Spoilt by an abundance of fresh cheese, meat, grains, oils and native ingredients, the aspiring chef was quickly instilled with a devotion to regional suppliers and supporting local farmers. At home, the kitchen was the heart of the house. Using cooking as a form of self expression, Sexton would spend nights and weekends preparing South African curries or cooking five-course meals for her family. Childhood memories of traditional South African Braais are Sexton’s fondest memories of food and her first understanding of how it could bring groups of people together.

Pursuing a career in food was a natural and obvious course for Sexton, whose first kitchen encounter was at just 14 years of age, working for a local Toowoomba Thai restaurant as a kitchen hand. Here, an interest in balancing different and opposing flavours was sparked for Sexton. After finishing school, she commenced her culinary apprenticeship, working her way from a sports club to a cafe, before completing her training in Toowoomba’s sole hatted restaurant at the time, Veraison. With the scope to constantly alter the menu depending on what was fresh, in season and available, Sexton’s time at Veraison fuelled an appreciation for local growers and sparked a thirst for something bigger.

Relocating to Brisbane in 2015, Sexton accepted a role at celebrated Chester Street Bakery. Here she honed her pastry skills before undertaking a new challenge as Pastry Chef De Partie at Brisbane’s award-winning restaurant, Stokehouse Q. It was in 2017 at the riverside venue that Sexton met two people who would further inspire her endeavours in the culinary world, Executive Chef Richard Ousby and Group Pastry Chef Lauren Eldridge. Both are deeply passionate about sustainability, echoing Sexton’s own values, and encourage in her a creative outlook for nose-to-tail cooking aimed at eliminating food waste.

Recently, Sexton has been part of the judging panel for Royal Queensland Food & Wine Show’s Cheese & Dairy Produce Competition and was part of the line-up for the Good Food Guide Young Chef’s Lunch last year, presenting her milk & cereal dessert.

Now, in under two years, the 24-year old has become Junior Sous Chef at Stokehouse Q and believes in a “work smarter not harder” attitude. Over the years, Sexton has developed a simple and nostalgic cooking style, allowing a few select flavours to shine and complement each other.

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