THE HEAD CHEF GIVING PERTH A SHAKE-UP
CLAREMONT bistro Billie H might have only been operating for a year, but already it’s being lauded for turning out some of the smartest dishes in the country. It’s been named as one of the nation’s top restaurants by Gourmet Traveller and the Weekend
Australian Magazine, and has attracted glowing reviews from a slew of respected critics.
And much of the credit goes to 30-year-old first-time head chef Alia Glorie. When The
Australian Magazine listed its top 50 restaurants in the country, only three had female head chefs, putting Ms Glorie in an exclusive clique.
She said part of the success of the restaurant was her decision to eschew an ingredient that can be found in many top kitchens — stressed-out staff, crazy work hours and an aggressive attitude.
“We don’t make inappropriate jokes about race or sex, we are pretty straight,” Ms Glorie said. “We swear a little bit, but only in laughter.
“My chefs don’t get yelled at, I’m not a screamer.”
Gordon Ramsay she is not, but Ms Glorie said the industry was undergoing a cultural change, with more women on the pans and the work environment adjusting to modern expectations.
“It’s something that chefs are talking about now, that there is a new-school attitude and an old-school attitude and that’s not to say that the oldschool attitude is wrong, it’s just that there are certain environments in that (world) that allow women to be vilified or judged,” she said.
“I know when I first started I had to be better than the other girls. That’s an awful thing to say but women are seen as, ‘you can’t cook, you’re not strong enough, you’re in a man’s world’, sort of thing, and that’s changed significantly.
“I’ve had a lot of women chefs coming in and out and 100 per cent of the women who have come in have said to me that at some point in their career they felt unsafe in the workplace. Every single one.”
Billie H is the first solo venture of restaurateur Daniel Goodsell, who spent the best part of 20 years working alongside Nic Trimboli, the man behind some of Perth’s most loved restaurants, including Balthazar, Il Lido and Bread in Common.
He said he hired Ms Glorie because he recognised she had a unique vision.
“I was kinda looking for someone who was going to take this on with a different sort of vision straight away,” Mr Goodsell said.
He said a cohesive team was the key to success for any restaurant.
“The idea is everyone is working towards the same idea and success of the place,” Mr Goodsell said.
“The chef is just as involved in what’s going on out the front and the guys are just as involved with what’s happening out the back.”
Billie H is riding high on a buzz about its sophisticated wine offering, slick service and food that puts a classy twist on classics such as devilled chicken livers and sardines on toast.
“I just have a desire to be different,” Ms Glorie said.
“We’re coming out of this food realm of molecular gastronomy and 27 different things on a plate. I really was bored of it, I was bored of cooking it, I was bored of looking at it, and it never really felt like it was me.
“I’m not really into doing foams and gels and powders.
“Those techniques are great but they are not the way I wanted to direct this place.”
She jokes the food she likes to cook is “ugly beautiful”.
“Initially we had a lot of photographers through and they really struggled with the food, they didn’t know how to take good photos (of it),” she said. “We had a leek dish that had sauce all over it, it was messy and there was a pile of cheese. From the top it didn’t look like much, from the side it was just kind of weird.”
Ms Glorie said restaurants were more aware of the importance of local produce.
“Now more than ever Western Australians are getting their identity,” she said.
“So it’s not necessarily about, ‘Italian is really big this year’, or Eastern European food or whatever, I think everyone’s finding their own way.”
Signature dishes: Alia Glorie is head chef at Billie H, a bistro in Claremont changing the face of Perth dining. Clockwise from top left: sardines on toast; devilled livers; chargrilled leak; braised octopus with paprika, almonds, orange and chili; and smoked pork belly with white bean, pear and sage. Picture: Daniel Wilkins We swear a little bit. My chefs don’t get yelled at, I’m not a screamer.