Josep's move to Melbourne
was never planned
Bohemian Josep Bohemian Josep Sian Moore

I like to just sit at the bar have a glass of wine and a couple of tapas. When you understand the philosophy, it's great

Catalan chef Josep Espuga arrived in Melbourne a year ago with little knowledge of his new home, the country, or of Melbourne's competitive food scene. As head chef at the recently opened Bohemian Bar & Restaurant in South Wharf, Josep took time out from his busy schedule to chat with Spanish Australia about his new life down under.

Josep began his journey to becoming a chef at the age of 13. Even earlier he had enjoyed being in the kitchen with his mother, so when his parents opened up their own restaurant In Cataluña near the border with France, Josep was inspired to go to Culinary School and then worked in the family business.

The young chef has an impressive resume, having started as a pastry chef at 16. Since then he has produced cookbooks for a Spanish kitchen appliance company and has worked in a host of world class restaurant. As well as the two Michelin starred Madrid restaurant La Broche, he's spent time at Mugaritz in San Sebastian, a one Michelin starred restaurant at the Guggenheim Museum in Madrid Bilbao and most recently, he was head chef at Degustation in New York.

His move to Melbourne was never planned. "It was something that just happened," he explained. One night after work in New York Josep received an email from the guys at Bohemian Bar who were looking for a Spanish chef for their new restaurant venture. After two months of interviews and correspondence via Skype discussing possible menus, Josep landed the job ahead of 260 other applicants.

It was a tough decision for Josep and his girlfriend as Melbourne is much further than New York is from Barcelona. But the decision is paying off handsomely. Arriving in November 2011 Josep played an integral part in setting up the restaurant from scratch, influencing the choice of cutlery to the design of the kitchen. The Bohemian Bar & Restaurant finally had its grand opening in March of this year.

Josep was surprised to find such a high level of Spanish cuisine available in Melbourne. Having never visited Australia before he had no expectations, so was more than pleasantly surprised to find well established world class Spanish restaurants such as MoVida.

Bohemian Bar is a nice addition to the club and prides itself on its use of fresh quality ingredients. Josep explained, "I don't know if it is a difference or not, but what we are trying to do at Bohemian Bar is make as much as we can at home. We make our own chorizo, we make all of the marmalades and all of the pickles. Everything we use is made at home."

Josep loves his Asian food which he claimed is sometimes harder to find in Barcelona, unlike New York and Melbourne. He is enjoying discovering new cheap restaurants around the city. "For me a good restaurant is where you can go everyday and spend $35-$40 and have a nice meal, something simple and well done."

However, the one thing Josep misses about Spain is the tapas culture. For him tapas is more than just a small snack. It is a way of life and a philosophy. "I like to just sit at the bar have a glass of wine and a couple of tapas. When you understand the philosophy, it's great." Spaniards will traverse several different tapas bars in one night in search of good food and better company.

It has been non-stop work for Josep since he arrived in Melbourne. When he gets some free time he wants to explore the rest of Australia. For now he is just happy to see the Bohemian Bar flourish and South Wharf develop.

By Sian Moore
Spanish Australia Magazine intern

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