Bill Granger is the self-taught cook and restaurateur credited with introducing Australians to avocado on toast. In 1993, he opened his first restaurant, eponymously named bills (also introducing Australians to the annoying device of beginning names with a lowercase letter). The Darlinghurst café quickly became Sydney’s go-to destination for breakfast and brunch.
Born in Melbourne, Bill Granger moved to Sydney to go to art school. He had his first taste of the restaurant business working as a waiter, soon abandoning ambitions for a career in art to start a café of his own. The first bills café featured simple decor, a communal table and breakfast dishes including fluffy scrambled eggs, ricotta hotcakes and, of course, the aforementioned smashed avo. The Darlinghurst venue continues to this day with those signature dishes still on the menu.
It was the beginning of a café empire. The second bills opened in Surry Hills in 1996 and there are now (2023) four Sydney cafés – Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Bondi Beach and Double Bay. As is the wont of celebrity chefs, Granger soon moved into the cookbook business. His first book, bills Sydney Food, was published in 2000. The book, according to the blurb:
… explores the whole food culture in Sydney, the trends, the fresh produce and exciting market scenes, the restaurants, cafes and the beachside eating society. Bill Granger highlights some of the wonderful spots in Sydney, where he shops for ingredients, and what inspires his recipes.
In 2008, Granger moved into Japan, opening his first overseas restaurant in Tokyo. He now has several restaurants in Japan, one in Korea and five in London under the name Granger & Co. He has been credited by The New Yorker as “the restaurateur most responsible for the Australian cafe’s global reach”. Food writer Terry Durack summed up bills’ appeal this way:
“‘Every city has one cafe that becomes the poster child for its inner spirit, and for Sydney, it is bills. Bill had a way of synthesising market produce + eggs + sunshine + freshness into something you didn’t know you wanted, but you wanted it bad. Somehow, Bill takes the sunshine with him. The key to Bill’s global success is that he changes constantly, and yet has never changed. The principles remain the same – take something people love to eat, and make it fresher, lighter, more beautiful. It’s irresistible. It’s the sort of food you eat when you’re on holidays, and yet you can eat it every day.’
Bill Granger has authored 11 cookbooks, the most recent being Australian Food, published in 2020. He has appeared in TV series, on ABC radio, and has written food columns for The Independent. In 2023, he was recognised in the Australia Day honours list “for service to the tourism and hospitality sector”. But, for many of us, he’ll be best remembered for the idea of eating avocado for breakfast.