Danielle Gjestland


Young Waiter Judge


Founder and Co-owner – The Wasabi Group (Wasabi Restaurant & Bar, The Cooking School Noosa, Ibento Boutique Event Space and Honeysuckle Hill Farm)

Danielle grew up in Sunshine Beach and, after returning from working in London, and with no Japanese restaurants in the Noosa area, she opened Wasabi when she was just 24 in 2003. After 6 years at the original Sunshine Beach site, she then moved the restaurant to Noosa Sound where it sits today along the beautiful Noosa River.

Wasabi has gone from strength to strength gaining momentum each step of the way. Under her guidance Wasabi is nationally recognised, holding 2 Chef Hats and has been the recipient of the Good Food Guide’s Regional Restaurant of the Year as well as The Australian’s Hottest Regional Restaurant in 2017 previously making the Hot 50 List for 2014, 2015 and 2016 and then again in 2018. Wasabi was also ranked Queensland’s #1 restaurant in the Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 for 2017.

“From our humble beginnings, 15 years ago, when Japanese ingredients were little known and not at all fashionable, to now serving an Omakase driven menu where guests trust the chef, has been an incredibly rewarding journey. The process continues with biannual trips to Japan which involves everything from sourcing ingredients, buying ceramics, researching ideas for new dishes and visiting sake breweries.” As an extension of this, Danielle received her Sake Sommelier accreditation in 2015.

In 2012 work began on the restaurant farm, Honeysuckle Hill, where Japanese ingredients, that would otherwise not be available, are grown. Danielle manages the farm and implements the Japanese system ‘Bokashi’ where all the organic matter from the restaurant, mixed with micro organism activated rice bran, is used to nourish the soil, completing the paddock to plate circle.

As winner of the Appetite for Excellence 2009 Young Restaurateur of the Year, and most recently the 2017 Unilever Leading Woman in Foodservice Award.  Danielle sits on the panel for the Appetite for Excellence Young Waiter program and has had staff go on to compete and place in the National finals for both Young Waiter of the Year and Young Chef of the Year. “It has been a pleasure to watch some of our brilliant and talented young staff entering the industry in a regional location and going on to thrive in a national arena.”

The Cooking School Noosa and Ibento Boutique Event Space, which launched in late 2016, is the next step in the evolution of her business as she continues to take the Wasabi Group from strength to strength.