Chef Spotlight – Jake Nicolson


It’s not every day King River has the opportunity to work with a group as versatile as the Ghanem Group. Crafting unforgettable dining experiences in Brisbane and Melbourne, Executive Chef Jake Nicolson has partnered with King River to showcase Wagyu across their diverse restaurants. 

In this Chef Spotlight, we take a look at how Jake Nicolson has become the creative and masterful chef he is. With brand new menus around the corner, we get an inside look into what inspires his flavourful approach and why he chooses to feature King River Wagyu.   

Where did it begin for Jake Nicolson? 

Serving “five dollar pastas” in a small farming community is an unlikely start for an award-winning chef. But with the grandparent’s farm down the road, Warrnambool in Victoria is where Jake Nicolson called home for many years. It wasn’t until Jake started his apprenticeship with the prestigious Lake House in Daylesford under Alla Wolfe-Tasker that he realised the potential of hospitality and lit the fires for a life-time culinary passion. At the Lake House, Jake learnt the value of working with local produce, connecting with farmers and how to truly cook. He then furthered his skills as a sous-chef and head chef at award winning restaurant Circa the Prince working under many talented chefs including Andrew McConnell. However, a fateful meeting with his now partner at the Young Chef, Young Waiter Of The Year competition, found Jake connected to the Ghanem Group. The connection happened just as the Ghanem Group were searching to fill the role of Head Chef at their flagship restaurant Blackbird. Not only did Jake come onboard as Blackbird’s Head Chef, but he now holds the position of Executive Chef for the group, overseeing nine different restaurants in both Brisbane and Melbourne. 

Who is the Ghanem Group?

The Ghanem group is a diverse collection of restaurants in Melbourne and Brisbane that present global cuisines in captivatingly aesthetic restaurants. From their first restaurant, Blackbird set on the Brisbane River to Byblos, their two new Lebanese and Mediterranean restaurants, the Ghanem group have continued to create dining experiences that people love. The group also includes Donna Chang, a destination with Sichuan flavours and authentic Cantonese cuisine; Boom Boom Room, a Japanese Restaurant and Bar; Bisou Bisou, the French brasserie; Spanish delights at the Iris; and Le Bon Ton, a perfect stop for New Orleans and Texas style BBQ. While each restaurant is unique, the group consistently values high-quality produce, quality wine offerings, and a complete customer experience from ambience and service to show-stopping food.  

Why have you incorporated Wagyu into your new menus?

When designing a new menu, Jake says there are several factors that inspire the flavours and produce. He and the team travel globally to experience local cuisine, and invest considerable research into picking the best menu items for the restaurant’s locality. 

“We consider the full eating experience when we design a menu, including the outside temperature or climate, beverage options, and the local produce quality,” says Jake. Despite the variety of cuisines Jake works with, he says Wagyu can be used across the Group. “Wagyu is a fantastic beef. The fat content draws out the flavours and textures and the versatility allows us to maximise the use of the whole carcass, adding value to the partnership.” But he notes it’s not a ‘David vs. Goliath’ situation where the lowest-priced product wins. Instead Jake intentionally seeks out local partners that meet the Ghanem Group’s values and provide consistent products. From there, they find ways to showcase the products in their restaurants.

King River Wagyu can be spotted on a Ghanem Group menu in dishes like: 

  • Donna Chang’s Szechuan dry pot
  • Yakitori at Boom Boom Room, with King River chuck tender
  • Minute steaks at Bisou Bisou
  • Rump and bavette off the grill options at Black Bird with their Inferno 96.

Why did you choose King River?

The process to become a regular feature on the Ghanem Group menus is rigorous, but King River is a great fit. In his considerations, Jake looks for consistent produce quality over a long period of time, as well as continued positive feedback from customers. In bringing King River on board, Jake looked at farming methods, treatment of animals, feeding and regonality. But it’s not just the data that inspired Jake and his team. 

“We want to serve a product that not only tastes amazing, and looks amazing, but has a great story behind it,” says Jake. “We are proud to highlight Queensland produce and as a family-run business ourselves, we love the family values of King River.” 

In addition to aligned values, Jake says his experience working with the team has led to new opportunities to collaborate. “The opportunity and satisfaction of presenting such quality products is something that really drives us. We choose producers like King River, because we know that Queensland beef is some of the best in the country, maybe even the world.” 

King River is excited to be placing high-quality Wagyu produce in Australian restaurants, complementing our global exports. We are regularly becoming a trusted part of the supply chain for new clients. If you are interested in sourcing Wagyu from a reliable supplier with family-run farms, then contact the King River team.