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Restaurant Celebrates Two Delicious Decades

April 9, 2014 Food & Beverage No Comments Email Email

On 8 April, 1994, the Cairns dining scene changed forever when Ochre Restaurant, on the corner of Sheridan and Shields Streets, opened its doors.

After countless dishes, thousands of diners and a long list of awards*, this well known establishment will notch up 20 years of service tomorrow.

Owner, chef and co-founder, Craig Squire said Ochre’s approaching milestone would mark a special chapter in the restaurant’s story so far and provides many reasons to celebrate.

According to Mr Squire this special occasion will be observed in a number of ways that include the introduction of a ‘Favourites’ Excellence250X250pxmenu showcasing two decades of the restaurant’s best and most popular dishes.  “And of course, there will be a party for staff and friends who have supported Ochre over the years.”

While citing such facts as being the longest running Cairns restaurant managed by one owner and in the same location, it was the constant challenge putting Australian cuisine on the map that has mattered most.

“When we came to Cairns in 1994, we arrived with a great deal of enthusiasm and confidence in what we were about to do.  Back then, the prospect of dishing up crocodile, emu and kangaroo was a daring and relatively new concept.  But it was our determination to move away from novelty tourist fare to develop a brand of cuisine that would be taken seriously by ‘foodies’ for its integrity.  We did this by hunting and gathering the best Australian and Local produce and using creativity to prepare and present it in such a way that was both delicious and inspiring.  At the end of the day, Ochre was, along with a small group of Australian chefs and restaurants, a pioneer of what is now widely accepted as modern Australian cuisine.

“It has been a long journey to arrive at this point, but I can honestly say that in 2014 Cairns diners now understand what we are doing. For many years Ochre was better known by overseas visitors than it was by locals. The Cairns business is now consistent and strong with lots of groups using our private dining space for special occasion lunches and dinners.”

When it comes to writing the recipe for Ochre’s enduring success, Mr Squire said it is not one, but a combination of factors that were key.

“To begin, we have never underestimated the importance of tourism to our business and have readily embraced marketing in all its forms.  For example, we are the only stand alone restaurant to attend Australian Tourism Exchange.

“We have also always operated with a commitment to core values. Being a stickler for quality and consistency is fundamental, as is never confusing the customer with style changes.”

Mr Squire said other qualities include a passionate drive to succeed and always being at the cutting edge of food service in this region.  “Never relax or be complacent.  It is about always evolving, putting back in, renovating, maintaining, and training new staff and apprentices.”

When it comes to training, Ochre has much to be proud about.  Over the years, 40 apprentice chefs have learned their skill in this Cairns restaurant, two of which have ascended all the way through the ranks to Head Chef.

Another Ochre quality has been its diversification.  Facets like the introduction of private and event catering management has proven fruitful.  From couples to conventions, Ochre Catering has helped create memorable events for thousands of guests.  Just two years ago Ochre also took another step in this area to launch Tropic Spirit Catering to service reef tourism and strengthen the team’s service capabilities.

“We now have two kitchens, two teams of chefs and seven vehicles that enables us to cater for major events such as the opening event for ATE in Cairns in May this year.”

From humble beginnings, Ochre Restaurant continues to thrive and etch its place in Australia’s regional dining scene.  As the chef and owner behind the name, Craig Squire’s experience and talent should not be underestimated and resonates in restaurants across the globe.  In years gone by Craig has been resident chef in dining outlets in Asia and the Middle East and this month, will fly to Dubai where to oversee the opening of Bushman’s Restaurant at the Anantara in Dubai.  This new dining concept features a dedicated Australian theme and opens on 20 April.

“Bushman’s came about as the food and beverage manager at the Anantara used to work at the Beach Rotana in Abu Dhabi were I had been going to do Guest Chef promotions for many years.  As a result of this working relationship I was contracted to develop the menu and recipes, was in charge of sourcing and an Australian Chef to run the restaurant, sourced and set Australian product supply chains for export and import.  It is a very exciting project and I look forward to being there for the launch. As an aside, Bushman’s has done a deal with Penfolds Winery for exclusive wine supply and if successful, Anantara** group will go on to incorporate this restaurant concept within other hotels in its stable.

*Ochre has accrued many awards over the years and continues to do so, most recently winning the Australian Culinary Federation Best Restaurant 2013 and  RCA Winner – Event Caterer – NQ 2013.

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**For more on Anantara Group visit

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