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For film buffs, the London suburb of Notting Hill will always be synonymous with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Now Australian chef and restaurateur Bill Granger invites viewers back – this time, for a gastronomic treat – in his new show on BBC Lifestyle, writes Debashine Thangevelo.
LET’S face it, TV is saturated with celebrity chefs. Viewers are au fait with their personalities, styles of cooking, signature dishes and so on – all you have to do is drop a name and a Wikipedia-like history is unleashed.
What’s refreshing – and certainly welcome – is the introduction of new faces. That’s where Bill Granger comes in.
A self-taught cook and food writer, he became interested in food while he, as an art student, was working as a waiter. He rose to prominence in Sydney, Australia, when he opened up Bills, a restaurant where his breakfast – specifically the scrambled eggs – became legendary.
Four restaurants in Japan later, he opened Granger & Co in London’s Westbourne Grove. He has written several cook books, each showcasing his eclectic cooking style and exploring simple and easy recipes and fresh ingredients.
TV was clearly the next step for Granger.
As to what sets his show apart from the plethora of others, he says: “It’s very personal; it’s in my house. It’s the food I love to cook; not just restaurant food but the food I cook for my family every day. What I’m trying to do is invite people in and give them solutions for everyday cooking. I wear a hat as a professional chef and a hat as a home cook, and the TV show is definitely me as a home cook.”
With Britain home to so many celebrity chefs, Granger was asked how he planned to leave his mark.
“Australians have a different point of view and a city like London is so large there is room for everything. The most specific regional cooking from whatever country you can imagine exists in London and you just have to think of Australian food as another region.
“In Australia we have an approach to dining that’s very casual. In the casual scene and café scene Australians make their mark in doing good-quality, straight-forward food.
“Then there is Brett Graham’s The Ledbury restaurant, which is around the corner from me in Notting Hill, and he’s doing the most extraordinary refined food. From Flat White Café to the Ledbury, the range of Australian cooking here is huge.”
Explaining his love affair with food and when it started, Granger says: “I fell into it, really. I’ve always loved cooking and the emotional and social side of making people food. It’s the ultimate pay-off for me – it’s not just about cooking, it’s about the end result.
“I got a job as a waiter in a café when I was 19 and at university. I loved working in a restaurant and bringing food to people who were there to have a good time. The owner of the café came to dinner at mine one night, I cooked for him and he asked me if I wanted to help in the kitchen a couple of nights a week. I ended up renting the café a few nights a week and it went from there really. It was an accident really. I started as a well-meaning home cook who really enjoyed it.”
While he cannot live without extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, lemons, dried chillies and soy, he really detests tomato sauce and liver.
Of the latter, he explains: “As a foodie, I should enjoy it, but that slightly metallic taste almost brings out a gag reflex in me.”
As for his signature dish in the kitchen: “My children (he has three daughters) would say it’s the ricotta hot cakes we do on the show, because they love them. Also the chicken and lemongrass curry we have in the series; again, the kids love it. It’s really simple, the family go crazy and it’s on high rotation in my kitchen.”
In tomorrow night’s episode, viewers will be treated to his buttermilk pancakes with caramelised rhubarb, chickpea with chorizo soup and chicken, olive and preserved lemon parcels followed by spiced pear, blueberry and almond shortcake.
Damn, I’m hungry now.
• Bill’s Kitchen: Notting Hill airs on BBC Lifestyle (DStv channel 174) on Tuesday at 9pm.