Diners before his ego

Diners before his ego

Australian celebrity chef Bill Granger, who owns seven restaurants in London, Sydney and Tokyo, is used to “living out of a suitcase”.

Based in London’s Notting Hill for the past four years, the Melbourne-born chef, who travels frequently to his restaurants, speaks passionately about having the best of both worlds – food and travel.

The 44-year-old is the host of his own cooking show Bill’s Kitchen: Notting Hill, which airs on BBC Lifestyle (StarHub TV Channel 432) on Wednesdays at 8pm.

He says in a telephone interview with Life!: “Through my travels, I am inspired by the international food scene. I take the latest trends back to home cooking. I love to experiment. After all, I can’t keep making the same five dishes.”

The show is filmed in his own home kitchen because he “doesn’t like ‘fake kitchens’”.

He showcases a variety of cuisines on the show, whipping up dishes such as fennel-crusted roast lamb inspired by Italy; pork shoulder in hot chipotle citrus marinade from Mexico; fish tagine inspired by North Africa; and pork banh mi, from Vietnamese street food.

Off screen, he is also head chef for his family, filling the freezer with containers of food whenever he travels. “Whatever I cook in the day for filming the show, I save for my family to eat at night.”

He has three daughters aged nine to 13 with his Australian wife and business partner Natalie, 44.

The older of two sons of a butcher and a housewife, Granger says family meals were uncommon in his childhood as his father worked and his mother, a vegetarian, did not cook.

His interest in food grew when he dined out and tried to recreate dishes. He was also a waiter during his days as an art student in Sydney.

But at the age of 24, the self-taught cook dropped out of art school to open his first restaurant, bills, in Sydney, which became famous for its ricotta hotcakes and creamy scrambled eggs.

In 2008, he opened the first bills in Japan, one of his favourite countries and where he had lived for six months at the age of 19 as an art student.

There are now four bills restaurants in Japan.

He jokes about having a “mid-life crisis” when he decided to move with his family to London, where his wife lived 20 years ago. He opened casual all-day-dining restaurant Granger & Co in Notting Hill in 2011. “Some people buy a sports car, some want to live in the country, but I chose to move to the busiest city. So we moved with five suitcases.”

His next venture is in Waikiki, Hawaii, where he notes a change in the food scene. “There used to be just junky fast food. Now, the farmer’s markets have a strong presence with amazing produce.”

Due to open early next year, the place features a cafe on the first floor and a beach house restaurant serving salads, grills and pizzas on the second.

Calling Singapore his “favourite food place” and a “great food city”, Granger does not rule out opening a restaurant here too.

With 20 years in the industry, he has learnt an important lesson. “I used to think having a restaurant was all about me. I guess I was arrogant when I was younger.

“It’s all about the customer. If you look after the customers, the restaurant will look after itself.”

euniceq@sph.com.sg

Bill’s Kitchen: Notting Hill airs on BBC Lifestyle (StarHub TV Channel 432) on Wednesdays at 8pm.


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