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Insatiable - My Life in the Kitchen


It's been the best of years. It's been the worst of years. That is possibly the way Bilson would begin this book, a memoir of his extraordinary life as a chef-restaurateur, were he to publish it now.

Instead, Insatiable was released in the midst of the tumultuous closing of Bilson's two Sydney restaurants, for him a terrible latter part of a year that had seen his greatest success too. Earlier in 2011 he had received the top rating of three hats from the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide for his eponymous restaurant, Bilson's and this latest accolade followed years of similarly well-awarded restaurants with huge successes - yet also crushing losses.

Bilson reveals himself in the book as incredibly human. Most diners and the food-loving public or Australia regard him as a doyen of chefs, an exploratory cook, someone not afraid to cut his losses and reinvent himself. Over and over again, as the book shows.

Some would call him the 'Godfather of Australian cuisine'.

"Tony Bilson's memoir is a looking-glass into a time of unparalleled development in food in Australia and his part in it," says fellow Sydney chef Neil Perry.

Bilson's string of award-winning restaurants will revive memories of great meals and occasions for many patrons: Tony's Bon Gout, Berowra Waters Inn, Kinsela's, Bilson's at Circular Quay, Fine Bouche, Treasury, Ampersand, Canard, and most recently, Bilson's Restaurant and Number One Wine Bar.

While these names are general knowledge, at last here is the why and how behind these places, revealing much about Bilson and his craft as well as the stresses and struggles within himself and with others. The year 2011 was on the upswing for Bilson. This book, public appearances, awards and deserved successes were all finally in place.

Now, although the doors are still closed at Bilson's, just a little further towards Circular Quay Tony's beloved No One Wine Bar has recently reopened. Who knows, perhaps another chapter is yet to be written. In the meantime, Tony's account of all that has gone before may put it all into fuller perspective.

After all, by his own admission, he is 'insatiable'.

- Sally Hammond


Insatiable - my life in the kitchen, by Tony Bilson, published by Murdoch Books, October 2011, hardcover, rrp $39.95, ISBN 978-1-74266-1-148


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