Aussie Brett Graham has a pretty high-powered place in the world of cuisine. He commands the kitchen of one of the world’s greatest restaurants – The Ledbury. Under his management as head chef, the London restaurant has been voted the UK’s Best Restaurant three year’s straight from 2010 to 2012, and ranked 14th in the World’s Best Restaurants of 2016. His crowning accomplishment so far: the legendary second Michelin Star.
Of course his accomplishments in London are preceded by a notable career back in Australia. Most notable in his early career was his time in Sydney working under Liam Tomlin at Banc restaurant.
One of the top restaurants of its time, the Banc created a generation of chefs running other restaurants from Sydney to Brisbane.
During his three years at Banc, Graham won the Josephine Pignolet Award – and a ticket to London.
Graham’s exposure to fine dining under Tomlin – and his time in Newcastle – played a huge role in his later success in London. “Both were very busy restaurants, both were run by people who were incredibly passionate towards not just the food but more so towards the customers, so that was a really important time for me.”
He adds: “A lot of people I know went straight into fine dining restaurants and I think they missed the simple things a little bit.” Moving to London, Graham secured a job at the Square under Chef Phillip Howard. It was not long until Howard gave him the opportunity to become head chef at The Ledbury, where he now reigns over its world-renowned kitchen. Life in London hasn’t been an altogether easy transition from the comparatively laid-back living to be found at home. Compared to busy London, Graham finds that “life’s just a little bit easier [in Australia].”
Under Brett Graham’s management as head chef, the London restaurant has been voted the UK’s Best Restaurant three year’s straight from 2010 to 2012, and ranked 14th in the World’s Best Restaurants of 2016.
He’s not short for Australian company though. “We’ve got a great young team, actually half full of bloody Australians as well, from all over the country.” Having said that, Graham does not plan to return to live in Australia, for the time-being at least. “I’ve made London my home and I live in the countryside.” When not at work Graham loves to walk in Richmond Park with his wife Natalie, daughter Romilly and pug Winston.
Graham admits his yearnings for home are placated somewhat by his regular visits. “I try to come once a year, mostly for work and tie in some beach and family time at the end.” His next visit is in April to celebrate Australia’s Best 50 Restaurants. “I’m part of a talk at the opera house with Peter Gilmore (the Executive Chef of Quay restaurant in Sydney) and then some events in Melbourne including the awards ceremony.”
So how will The Ledbury go forward in a city crowded with competitive restaurants all vying for an edge over the rest? Graham may have struck on an idea that he plans to implement this year. He will open a deer park featuring a particularly rare breed – the white red deer.
Graham is also starting to build something of a sustainability focus in his kitchen. Customers can now receive 5kg bags of compost for their own gardening, which are made wholly out of The Ledbury’s kitchen waste. Despite the competitive London scene, Graham has managed to elevate The Ledbury’s reputation as a world class restaurant.
Refusing to rest on his laurels, Graham might just be able to bring a new edge to the restaurant’s business with new ideas for sustainable dining. Little wonder it’s hard to get a booking.