Meet Brendan Owens: The Perth-born Head Chef Taking Rockpool Bar & Grill

Brendan Owens was perhaps destined to take the sweet path in restaurant kitchens initially, including at Perth restaurant Rockpool Bar & Grill, having a grandfather as a pastry chef before him.

Yet Brendan always had one foot in other kitchen sections – beef, fish, larder, grill – and says it is the organisation and preciseness required of a pastry chef that set him up for his role as Head Chef Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth.

Brendan Owens was born and raised in Perth. He always had an interest in food and cooking and an awe of his mum’s homemade Beef Wellington and Lemon Meringue Pies. He left school in 2005 at the age of 15 and headed for an apprenticeship at the Weld Club in Perth – a well-to-do, member’s only club.

Opera Cake

There he learned “good structure and discipline” under Executive Chef Clayton Green, who is still at the Weld Club today, and is someone Brendan remains in regular contact with.

Brendan completed his apprenticeship in 2008 and headed to Singapore where he worked at 2am Dessert Bar under Janice Wong, who was awarded Asia’s best Pastry Chef in 2013 and 2014 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Brendan says under Janice’s direction he learnt how to work outside of his comfort zone, and in a modern pastry kitchen.

About nine months later, back in Perth, Brendan began working at Restaurant Amuse where he says he was “still incredibly green”, but he soaked up the establishment’s work ethic of always trying to improve. He took that work ethic with him. Brendan also made long-standing chef friends, including local boy Dave Pynt who now owns Singapore’s famed Burnt Ends.

Potato, Lobster, Caviar

Next, Brendan moved to Melbourne where he worked at fine diner Vue de Monde, starting as a Pastry Chef and working his way up to Head Pastry Chef. Here Chef Shannon Bennett ‘’opened a door to endless opportunity” for Brendan, whether it was working overseas with Miele cooking appliances or interstate doing pop-up dinners in Sydney’s Bondi Beach or in Tasmania.

In 2015 he joined the Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth team as Head Pastry Chef, taking over as Head Chef in 2021.
Thirteen years focusing mostly on pastry stood Brendan in good stead to manage the kitchen of the 180-seat restaurant and the third in the triumvirate that is the Rockpool Bar & Grill group, with other restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne.

Wood Fired Marron

“In the pastry section there are incredibly high standards,” he explains. “You have to follow recipes, be precise, and be incredibly organised.”

“In the wider kitchen, we have to to bring that same level of organisation and preciseness: if you’re organised it’s smooth, and if it’s smooth, it’s fast.”

At Rockpool he says he wants every day to be better than the one before. His quest for continual improvement is evident in the produce he sources from local surrounds: plump ducks from Wagin, exceptional beef from the salt-sprayed grassy paddocks of Blackwood Valley Farms in Albany, truffles from dormer chef David Coomer, and seasonal fruit and vegetables from Pemberton and surrounds.
As a relatively new Head Chef he’s basking in the collaborative nature of Perth’s chef community.

Vitello, Tonnato

“The Perth restaurant scene is really starting to flourish. There are some really good chefs around at the minute and so many of them are happy to chat and build the alliance, progressively growing the culture of food and hospitality for the younger generation of chefs and front of house professionals,” Brendan says.

”Everyone is very collaborative – Brendan Pratt from Vasse Felix, Kim Brennan from Como The Treasury, Ryan Chu from Chu Bakery and Evan Hayter from Arimia Estate – it’s a very good culture.”