Bill Granger re­veals his recipe for suc­cess, as he opens his 17th eatery.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

Aus­tralian restau­ra­teur Bill Granger, he of the fa­mous toothy grin, boy­ish good looks and easy­go­ing culi­nary style, has built an im­pres­sive global busi­ness on what he calls “sun­shine food”.

“I’m al­ways think­ing about sun­shine and light,” he says, no mat­ter if it’s at an out­post in Bondi, Clerken­well or Waikiki.

“Aus­tralians live very much for the plea­sure of the day to day, whether it’s en­ter­tain­ing friends at home or sit­ting out in the street on a milk crate hav­ing a cof­fee. I’ve al­ways cel­e­brated our out­doors life­style with fresh, sea­sonal and sim­ple ev­ery­day food.”

It’s an ethos that’s stuck and flour­ished across dif­fer­ent cul­tures and lo­ca­tions. Granger, who opens his 17th restau­rant this month in the up­mar­ket en­vi­rons of Lon­don’s Chelsea, says his ap­proach is just as it was when he first started in 1993. “I’ve been do­ing this a long time and con­sis­tency is key,” he says, on a re­cent morn­ing in Lon­don. “A good restau­rant is one where you feel the owner’s taste and point of view.”

Granger, along with wife Natalie El­liott and their daugh­ters Edie, Ines and Bunny, moved to the UK in 2009.

“I’d been com­ing back and forth since 2000 do­ing book pro­mo­tions and TV ap­pear­ances, and peo­ple would say, ‘Why don’t you open in Lon­don?’” says Granger, who at the age of 47 has penned 11 best­selling cook­books and fronted five TV se­ries. “But one Sun­day morn­ing Natalie said, ‘If we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it.’” El­liott has long worked be­hind the scenes. The first Granger & Co opened in 2011 in trendy Not­ting Hill and oth­ers soon fol­lowed.

“I’m al­ways one of those cooks who makes too much when peo­ple come to din­ner – if there are six peo­ple com­ing, I cook for 10. It’s re­ally im­por­tant to be gen­er­ous,” Granger says. The same goes for his restau­rants. “I be­lieve in spend­ing money on a great chair or putting more veg­eta­bles on the plate,” he says. “That’s where it all has to start from and it’s why peo­ple want to come back.”

The self-taught cook’s ven­tures in Lon­don, Ja­pan, Seoul and Hawaii all bear the hall­marks of his Aussie roots. But while the menu re­mains largely the same at each, they all have their own per­son­al­i­ties.

Where the first Bills restau­rant in Syd­ney’s Dar­linghurst was, “easy and wel­com­ing, like a sunny kitchen with a big table,” he says, the Not­ting Hill branch is about, “sit­ting in a friend’s kitchen, hav­ing a chat and a gossip”. For Hawaii, Granger wanted it to feel, “like a rich surf bum’s beach house”. In Seoul, the look is min­i­mal and mod­ern.

Ja­pan is an­other source of in­spi­ra­tion. Granger opened his first cafe there in the beach­side city of Ka­makura in 2008. “The peo­ple are so lovely and the ser­vice cul­ture is in­cred­i­ble. Ev­ery time I’m there I learn so much.”

How Granger made the world fall in love with break­fast and brunch was by chance. “The only site any­one would give me at 24 was one with re­stric­tive hours, from 7am to 4pm,” he says of the old pub on a hig­gledy-pig­gledy cor­ner of Liver­pool St, Dar­linghurst.

He started do­ing Amer­i­can-style break­fasts be­cause, “I’d gone for a hol­i­day to the US and my idea of the most glam­orous thing you could do was to go for a ho­tel break­fast, even at a mo­tel where you’d get toast in a lit­tle plas­tic bag on a tray. I loved what felt like the lux­ury of it,” he says, laugh­ing.

So fluffy Amer­i­can pan­cakes be­came his now-iconic ri­cotta hot­cakes and savoury corn frit­ters were about, “do­ing some­thing that wasn’t eggs”. (Last year, The Washington Post even cred­ited Granger with in­vent­ing av­o­cado on toast, so pro­lific has been his global reach.)

Granger fell into cook­ing while work­ing with Chrissie Juil­let at La Pas­sion du Fruit in Padding­ton in the early ’90s, and ex­per­i­mented at night by rent­ing the tea­room space to run a makeshift sup­per club. “It didn’t have a proper kitchen so I had to cook all the food at my par­ent’s place,” he re­calls. “I used to cook the as­para­gus in an elec­tric jug and heat up the soup with the cof­fee ma­chine steamer.”

His ini­tial in­spi­ra­tion for Bills was Syd­ney it­self. “I’d seen what Mau­rice Terzini had done as an Ital­ian all-day at Caffé e Cucina when I lived in Mel­bourne, but I wanted to do some­thing very Aus­tralian in­stead. Up un­til then, any­thing con­sid­ered good had to be Euro­pean.”

Granger has al­ways been happy to take risks. “I al­ways think ‘What’s the worst that can hap­pen?’ Maybe be­cause I grew up in a flat at the back of my fa­ther’s butcher’s shop, the idea of hav­ing my own shop seemed nor­mal.”

For the lat­est Granger & Co restau­rant in Chelsea – UK trade­mark­ing is­sues re­strict him from us­ing the name Bills – the en­tre­pre­neur worked with long­time col­lab­o­ra­tors Julie Meacham and Bruce Nock­les. The pair were also be­hind the re­cent ’60s-in­spired re­fur­bish­ment of Bills Dar­linghurst.

Later this year he will open a branch in Osaka. No mat­ter where he goes though, “it’s all about look­ing af­ter peo­ple and mak­ing them happy.” Spo­ken like a lit­tle ray of sun­shine.


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