Will Cowper, OTTO Restaurant Brisbane

Raising the ‘steaks’ in premium dining

A relationship between a renowned chef and his beef supplier has given new depth to the phrase “paddock to plate” and the opportunity for a Brisbane restaurant to serve some of the most extraordinary steak in the world.

When Will Cowper was asked to transfer from OTTO Sydney to lead the kitchen at the new OTTO Brisbane in 2016, he found the dining scene lacked access to the premium products he wanted on the menu.

“There wasn’t anyone trying to grab something new and when I came up, I struggled with that,” Will explains.

Embracing the opportunity to bring a change of pace to the Brisbane dining scene, Will wanted to support local producers for his meat, and not go to Sydney for it.

“Being the restaurant we are, we couldn’t go with run of the mill, I wanted something new and exciting, I wanted something premium.”

At the time, Will found the only beef he could source had a marble score 3, which could be found in the supermarket. He wanted more, much more.

“I contacted Rangers Valley, one of the world’s most respected marbled beef producers.”

Will Cowper, OTTO Restaurant Brisbane
Will Cowper, OTTO Restaurant Brisbane

A relationship evolved and the chef and the beef producer landed on a branded product, “OTTO Reserve”. What made this unique was not being 100 per cent Black Angus, nor 270-day grain fed beef, but Rangers Valley were willing to exclusively provide OTTO with its 7+ marble score beef, a rare score previously reserved only for the homestead.

OTTO Restaurant Brisbane

“We have marble score 7, 8 and even 9. From a 100 per cent Black Angus, it is almost unheard of. There is no one else around who does this; it’s almost impossible,” Will said of this premium product.

Being grain fed was imperative to Will, as it provided the consistency in flavour and a tenderness and richness not achievable in grass fed beef. The result? An unsurpassed menu for OTTO that exceeded expectations.

Rangers Valley Beef

“So many people think an Italian restaurant is not known for its steak, but they say hands down it’s the best steak they’ve eaten in their whole lives, and they come back because they can’t get anything like it anywhere else.”

Developing such a close relationship with the producers has given Will insight into the beef industry, enabling him to guarantee a premium product on his menu and confidence in the animal’s welfare through seeing and understanding all the processes from paddock to plate.

Prior to covid, Rangers Reserve would regularly host chefs – including Will – and distributors from all over the world, taking them on a tour of the abattoir, feedlot and farm, allowing them to stay in the homestead where they would dine on the beef.

Rangers Valley Homestead
Rangers Valley Homestead

Along with these visits, Will maintains a strong relationship through phone calls and emails.

“I feel so lucky to have that direct contact where I get to speak to them, normally what happens is I would speak to my supplier, they would speak to Rangers about what I need, whereas I just go direct and that is very rare. It’s a great relationship.”

It also boosts Will’s confidence to understand Rangers’ deep knowledge and relationships with cattle farmers.

“Rangers Valley work with a lot of producers around the country but they only work with the best.

“They can see a cow and work out which farmer it came from, and over the years, you get to know certain farmers’ names.”

Featuring an exclusive marbled beef does pose its challenges – there is a limited supply, which ebbs and flows and requires careful management by Will and his team.

“We haven’t ever run out, but we’ve come close as the 7+ marbling is so rare we don’t have an endless supply.”

Fortunately, making the supply last aligns with Will’s sustainability ethos, where he uses the whole beast and nothing is wasted.

“I get in all the cuts and portion it to how I want, which is time consuming, but I think it’s important as it comes down to reducing wastage and using the whole animal.

Rangers Valley Feedlot
Rangers Valley Beef
Rangers Valley Beef

“I’m taking 14 to 15 different cuts, not just the loin for example. A lot of restaurants and people have the same cuts – cube roll, scotch fillet, eye fillet, sirloins – we have got them too and they fly out the door, but that’s also because they are a marble score 7.

“But outside of that we have cuts people have never seen before and people love that; experiencing beef in a new way or in a way that isn’t necessarily something they would cook with at home.”

OTTO Restaurant Brisbane

The relationship between OTTO and Rangers Valley has paid dividends both ways, not only has the restaurant built a reputation as serving some of the best steak in Australia, but it has also become Rangers Valley flagship restaurant, where they fly distributors from around the world to Brisbane and they tour the OTTO kitchen, talk to Will and taste the beef in a six-course degustation.

“They have become almost like family I speak to them so often, I even have the old CEO still come into the restaurant,” Will said, adding it also gives him insight into the wider beef industry.

“It’s just that connection and they are such good people. I feel very lucky.

“So many people message me on social media, even distributors and people from overseas, asking how they can get their hands onto it but it’s just not possible.”

With what OTTO Brisbane has achieved on the restaurant scene by lifting the “steaks”, Will is excited for what’s around the corner in 2022.

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