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Ollie Hansford; changing the scene for Brisbane food

When acclaimed fine dining restaurant Stokehouse Q was closed after a decade of business, head chef Ollie had to make a decision: find a new establishment to work for or go out on his own. 

As the head chef, Ollie had to plan his next steps wisely. Teaming up with his colleague and friends, sommelier Aleks Balodis, and front of house expert, Stephen Overty, the trio created Siffredi’s Spaghetti Bar, an unconventional twist on Italian food by three blokes who are definitely not Italian. 

What started as a pop-up, turned into a permanent bustling restaurant bringing heart, soul, and most importantly, delicious food, to Teneriffe. But Ollie’s influence on the Brisbane food scene doesn’t stop there. A year on from Siffredi’s success, he opened Rita’s Taqueria and Tequila next door.

If you’re after a playful, trendy twist on Italian or Mexican cuisine, Siffredi’s and Rita’s are well worth a visit. Park your expectations of traditional food at the door and you’re in for a treat. 

Matt: Where did your love of food come from?
Ollie: I’m originally from England and growing up, my dad owned a sausage factory and pate business. On my weekends and after school, I used to do mundane tasks around the factory. That’s where I started to see what food actually was. He also had a stall at Borough Market, which was the best food market in London. I used to wander around and see all sorts of stalls from cheese to bread to fish. There was a big buzz around it, everyone was super passionate and that’s when I started to realise ‘okay, food is actually cool’. 

Matt: Was it always what you wanted to do for a career?
Ollie:I never actually wanted to be a chef until I had those interactions. One night, after working at the markets, I went for a few beers with my dad and his friends. One of them was a chef and he told me about the lifestyle, the camaraderie in the kitchen and how much fun it is. But I think he sold me on the fact that there were always beers after a hard day’s work. Four weeks later, I enrolled in Kingsway College in Westminster Kingsway College and started studying to be a chef.

Matt: What was it like winning the Young Chef of the Year title in your first ever head chef position?
Ollie:Working atGauge Restaurant was the first time I was able to be creative and do my own thing, it was a bit of a journey. You’re always a little bit more cocky and confident than what you should be. Winning was amazing but for me, the whole experience was not necessarily about winning, but the networking. What I took away most was meeting like minded-people that you can work with. You don’t really realise the extent of the industry until you put yourself out there. 

Matt: What inspires you in the kitchen?
Ollie: When I was working in different Michelin star kitchens, it was the cool thing to do to have 15-20 elements on a plate and you’d get this beautiful produce in, and turn it into a mousse, a foam or a gel. Nowadays, the way I see food is that it’s not cool at all. You get the best produce you can and showcase that individual item the way it’s supposed to be. It sounds obvious but something that people don’t realise is that for the farmers and producers, this is their life. They wake up every morning passionate about their produce, whether it’s the humble potato or chickens. And for you to then destroy it, or turn it into something it’s not supposed to be, it’s not something I want to be championing. I want the ingredient to speak for itself; that’s what inspires me. 

Matt: What has been your most memorable moment in your career to date?
Ollie:Well, winning the award was obviously pretty large but I’m lucky there have been a few memorable moments. I went from a small three-man kitchen team to being put in charge of three different restaurants and 45 plus chefs. Having that responsibility to help build the restaurant up from within was a massive turning point. It turned me from a cook into a chef. Before that, back in England, I was working in a Michilin star kitchen when Michel Roux Senior, who is known as the grandfather of cooking, came into the restaurant I was working at. After his meal he came into the kitchen asking who cooked his main course. It was my team, and he came in, shook everyone’s hand and said it was one of the best things he’s ever eaten. I was pinching myself!

Matt: What was it about Brissy that saw you launch your businesses here?

Ollie: I moved to Australia 10 years ago now. The first spot we landed was Brisbane and we lived here for three years before I moved to Melbourne for Stokehouse. I lived there for four years. It was cool and we loved it but it didn’t have the lifestyle, the weather, the people that Brisbane has. Brisbane was always considered home and we were always going to return. When the opportunity to come back and oversee Stokehouse Q in Brisbane popped up, I jumped at it. I love the food scene Brisbane has to offer, too.

Matt: How did Siffredi’s come about?
Ollie: When the Pandemic hit, and people weren’t spending money on fancy restaurants, the decision was made to close Stokehouse Q. Aleks and I couldn’t find another establishment we wanted to work for, Melbourne and Sydney included,so we thought ‘let’s solo it’. We decided to do a six-month pop up and thought that if it didn’t work out, we’d pull the pin and blow a bit of money. The idea was to make a restaurant that was fun, cool, cheap, and going to be busy. Most importantly, it needed to be something that we could operate ourselves, because labour would be the biggest expense. Our first week we said we would do 40 people a night. We ended up tripling that in the first two weeks and after a month, we doubled our staff. We were so happy to be doing well making money and providing jobs for people. When an open space came up next door, we took it, and that’s when Rita’s Tequila and Taqueria was born.

Matt: What should readers know about Siffredi’s and Rita’s?
Ollie:I know it sounds crazy but Siffredi’s is a spaghetti bar…but we’re not Italian. Rita’s is a taqueria but we’re not Mexican. We’re not doing traditional food. We want to make stuff tasty by using very unusual flavours to make it different. There’s plenty of Italian joints serving the same delicious meals, but we wanted a point of difference. That’s why we named it Siffredis, too. It’s named after a famous Italian porn star – we wanted to cause a bit of noise. 

Matt: I love the casual playfulness of Siffredi’s and Rita’s. What is your goal when creating an environment for a restaurant and bar for consumers?
Ollie: That was the goal! We wanted to create something fun. We opened it on a budget. The main MO was, ‘how can we make this place have the vibe?’ When we liked to go out for drinks, it was the places that had a raunchy, naughty mysterious ambience that we liked. We wanted good music and a good crowd, nothing over the top. We didn’t want it to be a place you have to dress up for but whether you come for a few snacks and a beer, or a whole plate of spaghetti and a bottle of wine, it’s going to be fun.

Matt: If you don’t mind sharing a secret or two, what do you think is the key in creating the perfect pasta and margarita?

Ollie: For a good margarita, first and foremost, it has to be good tequila. If you start with good ingredients, you’re going to get a good product. Same goes for spaghetti, but it’s also all about texture. Spaghetti doesn’t have a strong flavour so the texture needs to be spot on.

You can follow Ollie at @chef_Ollie_ . To book a spot at Siffredis, head and don’t forget to stop in next door for a margarita night cap at

Matt Lancashire