May 22, 2024

Bill Granger, renowned Australian cook, dies aged 54 | Bill Granger

The Australian cook and restaurateur Bill Granger has died in London aged 54.

Fellow cooks, celebrities and lovers of his restaurants paid tribute after the family of the food writer confirmed on Instagram he had died peacefully in hospital on Christmas Day.

Granger’s wife, Natalie Elliott, and three daughters, Edie, Inès and Bunny, were at his bedside, the post said.

Granger was born in Melbourne and became a global restaurateur and food writer with a career spanning more than three decades, having taught himself to cook. He was remembered on Wednesday as the person primarily responsible for the global popularity of avocado on toast and developing a distinctive style of Australian breakfast and brunch – so much so that he became widely known as the “godfather” of avocado toast.

Granger dropped out of art school in 1993 and moved to Sydney where he opened his first restaurant, bills, in Darlinghurst. The corner cafe became known for its fresh flavours and breakfast food, served at a central communal table.

In 1999 he and Elliott launched their business globally, which eventually encompassed 19 restaurants in Australia, the UK, Japan and Korea.

Granger wrote 14 cookbooks, made five television series and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia last January.

“He will be remembered as the ‘King of Breakfast’, for making unpretentious food into something special filled with sunshine and for spurring the growth of Australian informal and communal eating around the world,” his family wrote on social media.

“He will be deeply missed by all, with his loss most profoundly felt by his adored family, who are grateful for all the love and support that has been given.”

Nigella Lawson said on social media she was “heartbroken” to hear the news. “So cruel.”

Jamie Oliver paid tribute to Granger as a “wonderful human [and] kind calm soul”.

“[He] had an [extraordinary] ease and style in cooking that could only come from Australia,” Oliver wrote. “Many moons ago I remember going to his first Sydney restaurant in Darlinghurst … [it was] years ahead of its time.”

In London Granger established the chain Granger & Co, with branches in Chelsea, Clerkenwell, Notting Hill, Kings Cross and Marylebone.

The Australian writer Kathy Lette said on Twitter/X Granger was “the most gentle, charming, humble man” and his restaurants were a haven for Australians.

Goodbye dear Bill Granger – the most gentle, charming,  humble man. His London restaurant is an Aussie haven & headquarters of the Gumleaf Mafia, where he always greeted us with a warm, cheeky grin & his iconic avo on toast. Deepest sympathies to Nat and the girls #RIPBillGranger

— Kathy Lette (@KathyLette) December 26, 2023

The Australian actor Hugh Jackman and his former partner Deborra-Lee Furness said they would miss Granger’s friendship “most of all”.

“His talent, his joie de vivre, the way he brought people together and his commitment to family were inspiring,” they said in a joint statement.

Gwyneth Paltrow said the news was “heartbreaking”.

The food writer and former MasterChef Australia presenter Matt Preston said Granger was “a genuinely lovely bloke and an inspiration”.

“Together he (with Natalie by his side) helped shape the image of modern Australian food around the world.”

Similar plaudits were found across social media, with chefs and cookbook authors, including Darren Robertson, Christine Mansfield, James Martin, Hetty McKinnon and Mark Best among those expressing their sadness, with Granger described as a gentleman who “changed the entire breakfast game”.

Writing on X, the cook and TV host Adam Liaw described Granger as “arguably [the] most influential pioneer of modern Australian food”.

“His ‘sunny’ (his word, not mine) codification of Australian cafe culture at bills is the model on which every Australian cafe around the world is now built. Bloody great guy, too.”

The founding editor of Food Illustrated and delicious magazines, Neale Whitaker, said Granger “defined an era in food for so many of us in Sydney and beyond”.

David Prior, former Conde Nast Traveller editor and family friend of the Grangers, said it was “impossible to overstate the inspiration, impact and importance of what Bill and Nat created”.

“It ushered in a change to our culture, not a fine dining one or canon of strict recipes but a brightly optimistic, quietly sophisticated and totally egalitarian approach to food. Australian food used to be a question, Bill made it a statement. He changed Australia’s food culture first and then via, Granger and Co, came London and its many offshoots and cafes that took direct inspiration.

“Bill was never anything but gracious and took no pride in authorship of recipes, design or approach but the truth is his was never bettered. The original dna of that bright little corner cafe was telegraphed around the world and yet it always evolved with his curiosity and pitch perfect taste.”

Granger was beloved by many in Australia’s fashion industry, with Karin Upton Baker, the managing director of Hermès in the country and a former editor of Harper’s Bazaar Australia, remembering him as “full of light”.

“My babies came with me to Bills for breakfast after many nights of lost sleep,” she wrote. “And there was beautiful Bill smiling and charming and making delicious things to get us through the day. Never forget.”

Kirstie Clements, a former editor of Vogue Australia, said Granger was a “wonderful man, with a wonderful legacy”.

“Remembering that first shared table in Darlinghurst … Condolences to his family and to all the Bills staff ❤️”.

Environment minister and member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek posted on Instagram: “So very sad to hear of the death of Bill Granger. His cafes and books have given so much pleasure to so many. A Sydney icon. Condolences to his family and many friends.”

City of Sydney councillor Linda Scott also posted a tribute on Instagram, saying: “Sydney wouldn’t be Sydney without bills. Thanks for everything, Bill Granger. Your breakfasts reshaped our @cityofsydney Darlinghurst streets, and your cookbooks transformed our kitchens. You’ll be so missed. Vale.”

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