Award-winning chef Anna Ugarte-Carral is quitting Woolloomooloo's Old Fitz to head overseas

Old Fitz head chef Anna Ugarte-Carral is heading overseas.
Old Fitz head chef Anna Ugarte-Carral is heading overseas. Photo: James Brickwood

Anna Ugarte-Carral's star was already on the rise when she won the Good Food Guide 2020 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year Award. The glowing reviews she has gathered since signing on as head chef at The Old Fitz nearly 18 months ago back up that promise.

With the overseas opportunities offered as part of the Young Chef Award delayed by the pandemic, Ugarte-Carral has decided the time is now ripe to head abroad. Her last service at the Woolloomooloo pub is on June 5, so there is still time to check out her final menu, which launches this week.

"The tuna and fig brioche toast we had on the menu got a really good response. Figs are headed out of season now, so we'll [match] the brioche toast with cured trevally, crispy dried shrimp and fermented tomato," she says.

Former Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby and chef Damien Pignolet present Anna Ugarte-Carral (right) with the Josephine ...
Former Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby and chef Damien Pignolet present Anna Ugarte-Carral (right) with the Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year award in October 2019. Photo: Paul Harris

The theatre pub is earning a reputation as a breeding ground for kitchen talent, with Nicholas Hill previously serving his quirky reimagined pub fare there before opening Porcine Bistro in Paddington. A promising replacement for Ugarte-Carral has been found, with Toby Stansfield (ex Monopole and currently chef at Sydney pasta shop Fabbrica) headed to the Old Fitz.

Good Food tracked down Stansfield, who says he wants to keep the pub nostalgia rolling when he gets in the Old Fitz kitchen in mid-June. He'll retain staples such as steak frites, and add a modern take on the "rooster roll".

"One of the things I particularly like about the Old Fitz is a lot of freedom is left to the chef," he says.

Ugarte-Carral – who already has Firedoor, Hubert and Momofuku Seiobo on her CV – plans to stage in some top-shelf restaurants in Europe, the US and possibly Japan.

"The Old Fitz is my first head chef job," she says. "I've loved it here and it's good to leave somewhere at the right time, so you remember it as a great time."