WA’s best country steak sandwich revealed as North West Brewing Co’s sanga by chef Ats Johanson

An Estonian chef at Karratha’s first craft brewery has been crowned regional champion at the AHA and Furphy WA’s Best Steak Sandwich Competition.

North West Brewing Co.’s head chef Ats Johanson took out the title at Crown Perth on Tuesday with an inventive steak sanga inspired by his love of coffee and whiskey.

Beating fellow finalists — Settlers Tavern in Margaret River, Wundowie’s Loosefoot Saloon, and the Bolgart Hotel — Johanson’s pub dish was not only the most flavorsome but also had great structural integrity thanks to his clever use of Turkish bread.

North West Brewing Co. charges $31 for the steak sandwich — five or six dollars more than the other finalists’ offerings.

Camera IconWinner from Chef Ats Johanson at the Bolgart North West Brewing Karratha, the best country steak sandwich at Crown. Credit: Andrew Ritchie/The West Australian

Johanson revealed he uses a coffee rub on a scotch fillet of Reef City Black Angus beef.

“We have a coffee machine in the kitchen, and I make my steak rub out of the coffee grounds, then I smoke the steak,” he explained.

The steak is slathered in a jam made of coffee, whiskey, onion, garlic, and pancetta before bacon, lettuce, pickled onion, aioli, and two different cheese slices (Swiss and “liquid cheddar”) complete the award-winning sandwich.

Johanson laughed that the packet of liquid cheddar looked “nasty, but it works”.

And as for the all-important Turkish bread, that’s from Coles.

steak sandwich

Camera IconIt’s all about the bread, according to chef Ats Johanson. Credit: Andrew Ritchie/The West Australian

The triumphant steak sandwich is served with chips and North West Brewing Co.’s house mustard mayonnaise sauce.

After attending cooking school in Estonia, Johanson served his apprenticeship aboard cruise liners in the Baltic Sea and worked in Norway.

When he came to WA, he was shocked by how much money he made working as a chef in a Caltex roadhouse.

Johanson has been head chef at North West Brewing Co. since they opened in November 2020.

Karratha’s steak sandwich king confessed that he stayed up watching cooking videos to soothe his nerves the night before the final, but once he got on stage at Crown Perth, he was calm.

Even the 12-minute time limit to create his masterpiece did not faze Johanson.

“No, no pressure,” he insisted. “The pressure went off because I felt at home in the kitchen.

“Once I got on stage, that was all fun and games.”

Camera IconWinners are grinners. Credit: Andrew Ritchie/The West Australian

North West Brewing Co. co-owner Daniel Scott said the venue had already seen an increase in demand for the steak sandwich thanks to Johanson’s creation making the final.

He expected sales to explode in the wake of his win.

The AHA and Furphy WA’s Best Steak Sandwich Competition continues at Crown Perth on Wednesday with the Perth metro final featuring the Karalee on Preston in Como, Seven Sins in Roleystone, Canning Vale’s The Last Local, and the Byford Tavern.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.