Cloudland Garden Restaurant Fortitude Valley Brisbane

Grilled: Alec Kapitz, Head Chef, Cloudland Garden Restaurant

We sat down with Alec to chat about his food journey and discover what’s instore for Cloudland Garden restaurant.

Tell us about your culinary journey and what led you to becoming a chef?

It all began in high school with a week’s work experience, where I had to choose something I was interested in. I thought let’s do food — why not? And I’ve being doing it ever since, for fourteen years now. I started my apprenticeship while still at school. My grandmothers on both sides were very much into cooking, and it’s one thing I miss about being a kid. Their baking, and the dishes they were famous for, like nanna’s quiche. Everyone fought over it.

I started out at the riverside seafood restaurant, Jellyfish and was there for a few years, moving through different sections in the kitchen. I did everything except desserts and learned a lot about fish. I think that’s where my Asian inspirations started because there were a lot of influences on the menu.

And you have worked with Andrew Musk, Executive Chef before?

Yes, at Banc Brasserie. We get along, we have a good understanding. Andrew understands how I work and think. It’s not something you come by often, someone you have a good relationship with, and can work with consistently.

What are some of the key experiences or mentors that have shaped your cooking style and philosophy?

My first head chef at Jellyfish. I’m a curious person by nature and I ask lots of questions and need to know what’s going on with everything. He was great for that, and I could ask loads of questions like, ‘What’s the point of using this ingredient?’ and ‘What’s the benefit?’ He was really knowledgeable and happy to answer. This has helped me to pass on knowledge to others who are also curious.


Cloudland Garden Restaurant Fortitude Valley Brisbane
Cloudland Garden Head Chef, Alec Kapitz.


What’s your favourite dish to eat, and what would you choose for your last meal?

One of my favourite dishes is good dumplings and beer. I’m quite content with that, but my last meal would be a bowl of ramen. Maybe that doesn’t sound exciting, but I’ve had days where I’m not feeling the best and I have a bowl of ramen and it enriches your soul and you feel a tiny bit better. I enjoy seeing how people interpret the dish. It’s never the same, and that’s interesting.

How would you describe your culinary philosophy, and how does it influence the dishes you create?

I often view my philosophy as being a guide for food. I’d rather put my energy and efforts into sourcing the best products I can. Whether they be local, or the best ethically produced products that might be imported, and I enjoy working out what I can do to really showcase them. I think some of my favourite dishes that I’ve created have three ingredients, like a kingfish crudo I’ve done by ageing the fish and making a simple dressing, topped with fine herbs that bring out flavour and tie it all together. I think I’m a very simple man when it comes to food, because I don’t think you necessarily need to do too much. If you can be smart with certain ingredients, the dish does all the work for you. As long as you execute it properly. It’s perfect.

What values and principles are most important to you in the kitchen?

Respect. Kitchens are a place of respect, no matter who you are, and if everyone respects each other it’s a great space for learning and sharing knowledge.

What are some of your favourite dishes to prepare, and why do they hold a special place in your heart?

Honestly? Cutting fish! I think it’s a kind of meditation. At Jellyfish, I’d happily spend from 6.30am to around 2pm cutting hundreds of kilos of fish a day. It could be whole fish, fillets, small fish that I’m butterflying and removing every single bone to be served whole. I find it almost therapeutic, and because of that I enjoy the challenge of how consistent I can be. I’ve had times where Andrew has ordered in large amounts of whole fish that he knows I will particularly enjoy, just so I can have some ‘me time’. I don’t have the patience for fishing though.


Aged kingfish crudo with yuzu koshu dressing, radish and coriander.


Can you share any unique techniques or ingredients that you often use in your cooking?

One that I’m really starting to incorporate over the last few menus, is dry ageing fish. You essentially cut between the scales and the skin, so the skin becomes texturised. I dry the fish by hanging at fridge temperature for four or five days in a cool room with consistent airflow. Dry ageing adds a depth of flavour, one of my favourites is kingfish. It’s a pretty oily, fatty fish, but when you cook it the skin almost cracks up, like pork crackling.

What draws you to seafood?

I like the fact that seafood is so versatile. I think people tend to view it as one or two things, people think of fish, prawns, but it’s much more than that. Also, fish has the same sort of properties flavour-wise, but a snapper compared to a kingfish, or tuna, all taste completely different, and they’re texturally different. I think what you can do with that is exciting and challenging.

How do you ensure the freshness and quality of the seafood you use, and where do you source it from?

I’m always keen to engage with suppliers that specialise, to really help drive the provenance side of that, rather than mass produced. I’m always on the lookout for local and family-run suppliers to source the best seafood from small inlets that have a limited supply, with the focus on quality.


Cloudland Garden Restaurant Fortitude Valley Brisbane
Pan seared scallops with parsnip, morcilla, chicken jus gras and capers.


What are your goals for the future, both personally and for Cloudland Garden?

For the restaurant, working out the best way we can use the grill and impart flavour, but also having a balance between smoky and fresh. As gruelling as being a chef can be, it’s also exciting and I need the adrenaline rush! I can’t sit at a computer, it makes me instantly tired. I need to do something physical and intensive.

See Alec and Andrew’s new menu here, or book a table to discover some of their delicious dishes for yourself.