BRETT GRAHAM

GQ (Australia) - - TASTE & TRAVEL -

MEET THE AUSSIE CHEF WHO’S KING OF THE LON­DON FOOD SCENE, THANKS TO HOME COM­FORTS AND HARD GRAFT.

We wouldn’t blame you if Brett Graham wasn’t on your radar – his res­tau­rant, The Led­bury, is far away in west Lon­don’s ty­coon-in­fested streets. Still, the pres­ti­gious ‘World’s Best 50 Restau­rants’ list has him as the top Aus­tralian chef on the planet. For the sec­ond year run­ning, The Led­bury is one of only two UK venues to fea­ture, with He­ston Blu­men­thal’s Din­ner just cut­ting in above him. The 36-year-old son of a trac­tor sales­man from New­cas­tle, NSW, has gone to Bri­tain, taken on Ram­say, two gen­er­a­tions of Rouxs and Blu­men­thal’s own leg­endary Fat Duck and beaten them harder than he does his eggs. As a kid it was in­gre­di­ents, not cook­ery, that cap­ti­vated him. “Food was fuel,” he grins. “Cheap steaks, all the meat well done. That’s how you grew up in Aus­tralia at the time.” Aged 15, he’d hoped for work ex­pe­ri­ence with a vet, but was given a slot in the kitchen at New­cas­tle’s Scratch­leys on the Wharf, where he im­pressed so much they of­fered him a job. He de­clined, but two days later changed his mind. Then, at 18, Syd­ney beck­oned and he dis­cov­ered the gru­elling re­al­i­ties of res­tau­rant life. “It was the hard­est job I’ve ever had,” he says of his time un­der chef Liam Tom­lin at Banc. “I spent months on veg­eta­bles.” Af­ter Graham com­plained of 120-hour weeks and two-day headaches, Tom­lin told him to bug­ger off back to the mines where he be­longed. “I thought, I’m go­ing to show this fuck­ing guy.” Within three years he’d won the Josephine Pig­no­let Award, which funds young chefs to seek kitchen ex­pe­ri­ence over­seas. He then grabbed a slot at two-miche­lin-starred The Square in Lon­don work­ing un­der Philip Howard, and by 22, was lead­ing cooks 10 years his se­nior. Twelve months later, Howard asked Graham to open a res­tau­rant. Things started roughly at The Led­bury. “Some of the re­views were shock­ers,” he says. “It’s hard to take. You’re work­ing your nuts off and some guy [critic Michael Win­ner] says your res­tau­rant should be a car park.” In re­sponse, Graham de­cided to dial down the French and turn up the Aus­tralian­ness, his food be­came sim­pler, with un­nec­es­sary carbs and dairy re­moved. “I don’t take it too

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