Australian chef Bill Granger is as renowned for his sunny outlook as he is for his light, sunshine-infused food. Despite a manic schedule on his whistle-stop tour of England to promote his new book, Feed Me Now, the rising culinary star found time to sit down and talk to hellomagazine.com about cooking for his family, his multi-cultural influences and why he'll take intuition in the kitchen over formal training any day
What was your aim with your latest cookbook, Feed Me Now?
"I had the craziest year last year, I opened a restaurant in Japan and filmed a TV show around Australia. Throughout all of that I still needed to do all the cooking for my family. I wanted to write recipes that would help me...a freezing ahead section where I could get organised for the weekend, cooking for kids – the everyday problems we all have."
So this book is more family orientated than your previous ones?
"When I say family I use that loosely as families come in so many different shapes and sizes and that's what I wrote the book for."
Do you test all your recipes on your friends and your wife Natalie and your three girls Edie, Ines and Bunny?
"My poor children never have family favourites because I'm constantly cooking new things! The thing with food is, even if you want it straightforward and fast everyday you want a bit of glamour with it, it's got to be delicious. Simple, stylish and achievable."
Where does your inspiration come from?
"I'm constantly eating out and trying new things. What I try and do is take all that exciting world of food that I see out there and bring it back to modern home cooking."
What are your essential ingredients, the things you couldn’t live without?
"Fresh herbs, lemons, sea salt, olive oil, light soy and red wine vinegar. They are the basic ingredients I always have next to the stove."
I understand you are self-taught. How important do you feel formal training is?
"My restaurants and cafés are really relaxed and straightforward. What that enables me to do is a bit of home-cooking in the restaurant. This is for people who want to eat everyday. It's not intimidating – it's straightforward food. That's what I do – so not being formally trained is a good thing. Intuition with food is an underrated skill and that can be better than all the training in the world."
Initially you were an art student before working with food. How and why did you make this change?
"While I was at art school I got a job in a restaurant to pay my way. Art is very solitary. I got sidetracked by the great collaborative thing in the restaurant, working with a team and really seeing the results of what you're doing in a very instant way. I'm not good at long term projects so the idea of a day starting and finishing, of putting out great food and making customers happy and cleaning down at the end of the day really appealed to me."
In Feed Me Now there are recipes influenced by many different countries. Where do you think your greatest influence lies?
"I've got to say Italy. It's about putting a few things together and letting the ingredients speak for themselves. I go through fazes. Thailand is very strong because of the way they layer up food. They use quite rich bases and layer it up with lots of sharp top notes, finishing with lime, coriander and sugar. I often do that in my Western cooking as well."
There seems to be this balance of recipes for children and adult equivalents in the book – was that something you specifically set out to do?
"I think I always cooked for my own personal needs. I have three youngish children and cook for my own life. I think it's also a time when people struggle in their lives when they have young children and they are cooking a lot."
Do you feel children are eating more complex food than before? Do you think they are happier eating the same food as mum and dad?
"Parents are eating more exotic food. With kids, you're training the people you are going to be sharing meals with for the rest of your life so you need to get them eating what you're eating. But dropping it down a bit."
Your previous books have a very light feel to them with a clear nod towards Asia. Is Feed Me Now more British?
"Oh it is. I wrote it and shot it here. I spent a month here last year in the Cotswolds. I want to spend a lot more time in the UK. The food scene is so exciting. When I'm in the UK I feel like cooking different food. I'm still down with lightness and freshening things up but it's a little bit richer, a bit more satisfying, but I think that's a climate thing."
What is your favourite recipe from the book – or the one you are most proud of?
"It's always good to have a knock-out chocolate cake in your repertoire. There's a cake in there that's amazing, almost self-icing. You do a chocolate and raspberry sauce in the bottom of the tin so when you bake it, you turn it out and get this incredible oozing chocolate sauce."
Bill Granger's new book Feed Me Now, £20, published by Quadrille is out now.