Since joining QT Newcastle earlier this year as Executive Chef of the hotel’s signature restaurant, Jana, Shayne Mansfield has been bringing his own unique flair to the culinary offering.
With heartfelt family recipes, sustainably focused dishes, alternative cooking methods and his own homemade pottery, Mansfield is making his mark.
It’s over a year since Jana first opened its doors at QT Newcastle and you’ve recently come on board to bring your own unique spin on that offering. How has the restaurant and your menus been received by locals and guests?
Since my appointment in May 2023, I have been fortunate that QT Newcastle has embraced me and my vision for Jana. The team put their trust in me in the creation of the winter and now spring menu. Novocastrians and visitors connected with the contemporary Australian direction of the restaurant upon opening in 2022. This direction has remained with premium produce sourced from the earth and ocean of the region at its core. However, I’ve been able to add my sustainable ethos and alternative cooking techniques, such as charcoal, smoking and pickling, to elevate Jana to where it is now. The feedback has been fantastic.
How have you tailored the menu to continually meet the expectations of diners?
We’ve recently launched our spring menu at Jana, which is the second seasonal menu change since commenting my role as Executive Chef at QT Newcastle. This menu has been crafted for sharing, as we had an influx of guests were dining in larger group, especially on the Fridays and Saturdays. With positive guest feedback, like our winter menu, our spring menu is approachable with sustainability at the forefront. It continues to focus on highlighting our region’s premium produce, creating familiar and sustainably focused dishes with a touch of trickery.
What challenges or hurdles have you had to overcome?
Starting any new role is a challenge and it’s something that motivates me. The challenges are why I was excited for this opportunity. I came from a small 40-seater restaurant to a 5-star hotel – it was an adjustment. When I first started, there was an intensity of a new environment that I loved, but the management of a larger team – delegating and letting go, which comes with this – was a struggle. Since my appointment we’ve worked tirelessly, not only on Jana’s menu creation, but cementing the roles of the front of house and back of house kitchen team. For me, it’s important to have good, humble people – which is exactly what we’ve been able to find. We couldn’t do it without them.
Matching the energy and style of a design-led brand like QT is no mean feat. What are some of the innovative dishes that you’re most proud of?
I’m proud of all the menu items at Jana. If I had to choose just one, it would be the smoke heritage carrot tartare, a dish that was part of our winter menu and one that has now cemented its place as a signature at Jana. This dish captures some of my favourite cooking techniques which are charcoal, smoking and pickling. The carrot tartare utilises all parts of the produce by incorporating pickled carrots and steams repurposed as green-tinged crackers. It’s a zero-waste dish – which happens to be vegan too.
Minimising food waste is a top priority in your kitchen. How do you achieve that?
I’m very passionate about sustainable practices in the kitchen and have been able to bring some of these practices to Jana in my time here. This will certainly grow with time. When we’re creating new dishes, it’s top of mind: “What can we use and what does the wastage look like”. In our new spring signature, the mother fungus mushrooms, we pickle all the leftover mushrooms to create another profile for future dishes.
You’ve brought your own special touches to the dining experience such as Nan’s Ketchup. Tell us a bit about the story behind that?
Nana Helen’s homemade ketchup is a family recipe, crafted with love and whispered secrets. From an early age, my grandmother was the driving force behind my love for cooking. Her pickling and preserving recipes have now become part of my DNA. We’ve recently put some of our jars on display in the restaurant. I love being able pay tribute to her. I’m constantly plating up modern renditions of recipes passed down through generations in my family.
Even beyond the food, you’ve left your mark with your hand crafted pottery on the tables. How long has this been a hobby of yours and how important is it to you to bring your whole self to the table as part of the dining experience?
My love for pottery has been a release for me over the past seven years. It allows me to unwind on days off whilst still allowing me to tap into my creativity. Some of my smaller pieces are being used in Jana and I’ve recently been asked by QT Newcastle’s General Manager, Michael Stamboulidis, if I would consider marking all the plates for the restaurant. It’s definitely on the cards – I’m excited to see this through. At this point in my culinary career, I’m focused on bringing the younger kitchen team and the ethos of Jana to the table.