Lifestyle

Meet the Bill

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Celebrities have made it when they need nothing but their first name on a billboard or magazine cover. Kylie, Tom, Madonna, Brad ... that’s superstar status. But in the past five years, there’s been a new breed of luminaries – chefs and restaurateurs who can use a single moniker. Look at UK’s Jamie and Nigella, and Australia’s Neil, Tetsuya, Stephanie and now Bill.
 
Sydney’s Bill Granger was so proud of his name, he named his first Darlinghurst cafe with an eponymous title – all lower case sans apostrophe. After the success of bills, he followed up with bills Surry Hills and Woollahra.
 
“While bills Surry Hills has recently been renovated and is much more an urban diner, Woollahra has a large outdoor area and will be more domestic,” explains Granger, who has returned from a whirlwind tour around the UK, Europe and US to promote his books and TV shows.
 
This swanky new venue “will be breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days so, in a way, it will be like bills Surry Hills, but the look and feel will be quite different.”
 
Granger himself has always been a little different than most. Originally from Melbourne, he arrived in Sydney to study fine art but, after working as a waiter, he discovered his real passion – cooking. He was only 22 when he opened bills, a simple affair with a large communal table, open kitchen and the most sublime scrambled eggs on the planet.
 
With glowing reviews and queuing customers, he opened his second venue, bills Surry Hills (formerly known as bills 2) in ’96. But that’s just a small part of Granger’s growing emporium, with radio segments plus regular features in Australia’s delicious and UK’s Olive and Good Food magazines.
 
While his debut TV series, bills food, appeared on The Lifestyle Channel in Australia, his greatest achievement was “selling our TV series to the BBC”, he says. “It was the first cooking series that they have bought in 30 years. They usually commission.”
 
This blond entrepreneur is prepared to reveal a few business tips. “I'm constantly learning. In business, you make mistakes but, with experience, you get better at thinking ahead and foreseeing problems.”
 
Balancing his business and family priorities, he acknowledges the importance of having a routine. “I'm not a naturally organised person and I've learnt that I have to be,” Granger said in a recent Murdoch publication.
 
“The way that I do everything is by having a routine: starting at a set time, eating well, finishing individual projects and most of all, keeping everything in perspective.”
 
With determination and creativity, Granger extended his food writing skills to the next level, releasing three cookbooks, bills Sydney Food, bills food and 2003’s bills open kitchen. While the third book went straight to the top of the non-fiction charts in Australia, it sent UK foodies and cuisine critics into raptures.
 
The simplicity and full-on flavours plus his ‘home cooking’ philosophy has had sizzling reviews. The Independent Newspapers in the UK even complimented Granger’s “sun-bleached, life's-a-breeze Australian style”.
 
Next month, Granger is about to launch his fourth cookbook, Simply bill ($45), focusing on easy-to-follow menus – perfect for dinner parties and even work functions.
 
Does this cutting-edge chef find inspiration from all the five-star restaurants he gets to sample during his overseas jaunts? No, he replies, with a more understated response. Granger’s family – partner Natalie and children, Edie, Inès and Bunny – “make me happy and they are the reason I wake up positive and energetic in the morning ... most of the time!”
 
With his Woollahra venture coming to fruition, his new cookbook and many other projects in the pipeline, Granger still manages to whip up a mini-feast each evening at home. “I do cook for the family most nights. Natalie and I have a deal – I cook, she cleans up.”
 
Does this chef, businessman, author and TV personality ever get any time off? “Time off – what's that?” he says with a grin. 
 

  

Published on: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

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