RIP Bill Granger: The Culinary Genius We Barely Knew

Time to stop for a moment and remember Bill Granger, a ‘chef’s chef’ and a distinguished culinary innovator. The food writer, cook book author, TV celebrity and restaurateur died Christmas Day of undisclosed causes, at the age of 54…

Bill Granger - © 2015 - ITV

“He will be remembered as the ‘King of Breakfast’,” a family statement read in part, “for making unpretentious food into something special filled with sunshine and for spurring the growth of Australian informal and communal eating around the world.”

“But, wait…” I hear you scratching your heads. “I’ve never heard of this fellow!” That’s probably because you live in the Western Hemisphere. Granger was widely celebrated in Asia and down under – on a par with Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay in the UK and Guy Fieri or Anthony Bourdain in North America.

What he did

Granger was the iconic culinary polymath. Dropping out of art school, he taught himself to cook. And he did just about everything there was available to do in his chosen field. He wrote 14 cook books, appeared as a special guest judge on MasterChef Australia. And Granger opened more than a dozen restaurants in such widely separated locations – and cultures – as the UK, Australia, Japan and South Korea. Just a few months ago, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, his country’s highest civilian honour, for services to tourism and hospitality.

But he was perhaps best known as Australia’s ‘King of Breakfast’ for his cavalcade of ‘relaxed, casual, comforting’ day-starter recipes. Not the least of which I’m sure you’ve heard of, if not tried: Avocado Toast. Nope. It wasn’t invented in California. The foodies there just appropriated it, without crediting him.

“I’ve been credited with inventing a couple of things. One I’m sure about – the ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb are definitely my invention.” Granger told BBC in 2019. “The other one is avocado toast. While flattering, I’m sure someone else put toast and avocado together before me – but maybe I was the first one to put it on a menu and the first one to put it in a book.”

Accolades abound

Disciples and former MasterChef contestants credit Granger with ‘codifying’ the burgeoning Aussie Café Culture.

A modest bloke, but not shy: “People [do] speak of what we’ve done as being the ‘godfather’ of the Australian style of food,” he told BBC.

“What a guy he was! A wonderful human, kind, calm soul,” the aforementioned Oliver said of Granger. “I admired everything he represented in food.”

Lest we forget… Bill Granger

You may not have known of Bill Granger when he lived. But his memory will live on in his recipes and his conceptions of modern Australian cuisine. Next time you have a piece of Avocado Toast, raise whatever you’re drinking and toast Bill!

~ Maggie J.