He's got five fantastic restaurants, eight best-selling cookbooks and his own TV series, but Australian chef Bill Granger says he's just a home cook who likes to keep things simple. Alessia Horwich finds out why
“I shouldn’t say this,” he says, lowering his voice slightly, “but dairy and meat are a lot better in the UK.” Having moved to our shores with his wife and three young daughters 18 months ago, Australian chef Bill Granger misses the gigantic prawns and tropical fruits you can get Down Under, but he’s pretty excited about British food.
“UK produce is beautiful. You make great cheese; I’m a big fan of Wensleydale. And the vegetables here are fantastic. Sprouting broccoli has been my great revealation. It’s so delicious.”
Originally from Melbourne, Bill first started cooking whilst at art school in Sydney. He’s self-taught, but that didn’t stop him from opening his first restaurant, Bills, in 1993 at the age of 22. It was enormously successful and Bill was dubbed ‘the egg master of Sydney’.
“I love that title. I’m a cooked breakfast man for sure,” he says. “I have an egg almost everyday with my girls, maybe with some bacon, breadcrumbs, a bit of dried chilli, tomatoes, mushrooms. For me it’s a health thing, it keeps you going.’
Today he has five outlets, three in Sydney and two in Japan, and has written eight cook books, selling over 850,000 copies. He’s a busy man, and so he keeps his cooking simple.
“Simple recipes are the best ones. I haven’t got time to muck around. Food has got to be straightforward, if I want complicated I go to a restaurant,” he explains.
He’s always got tofu in the fridge: “It’s a great protein source, it’s healthy and cheap. I stir-fry it with garlic, chilli and green beans for a quick dinner.”
Staples in his shopping basket are a whole chicken, to roast or chop up to poach or steam, as well kitchen quick-fixes like chickpeas and long-life sauces such as mirin, soy and fish sauce.
“I’m always looking for shortcuts,” he says, “I’m really a get-in-and-get-out-the-kitchen kind of guy and all those bottles of things are what lifts everything you cook.”
Inspiration in the kitchen
He doesn’t use cookbooks anymore, although he does like Nigel Slater’s simple, easy cooking that’s not too fussy or restauranty. ‘It’s got honesty and integrity. Someone said I was like an Australian Nigel Slater. I was really flattered about that.”
When he started out he was inspired by the classic home cooking of Elizabeth David, Claudia Roden and Jane Grigson. “I normally like female writers because they celebrate food of the home and that’s what I’m interested in... because I’m the person who puts food on the table in my home.”
Favourite food trends
In his home, food brings the family together and that’s part of the reason why he learned to cook. Bill loves the convivial trend of having small dishes of food that everyone shares on the table. “At home I’d never serve up on separate plates. I put things on different platters and let people help themselves. It brings a lot of laughs to the table, a lot of energy.”
What’s his ideal dinner for family and friends right now? “I’m obsessed with Japanese food at the moment, it’s driving my family crazy. But I’d have to do great British steak with miso marinade. Some sprouting broccoli and other veg and Japanese rice. Simple but great flavours.”
And that’s his advice to all lovefood.com readers: don’t be afraid to keep it simple. “The best food is the simplest,” he says. “Spend your money on buying nice ingredients, and then don’t do too much to them.
“Oh, and also don’t be scared of taking shortcuts. There’s nothing like a good shortcut.”
Inspired? Get cooking with Bill’s recipe for buffalo Rendang curry!
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