Mr. Granger had an early interest in food, bringing his parents a “silver service” of breakfast in bed from the age of 5 and working his way through magazine recipe cards, before turning his attention to the food writers Elizabeth David and Margaret Fulton. He feasted on Melbourne’s richly diverse cuisine, eating dim sum with the Chinese parents of a childhood friend and searching out Lebanese kofta, African curry and the “most pungent” Parmesan, he wrote in his most recent cookbook, “Australian Food” (2020).
Like his father, he went to Mentone Grammar School, a private boys’ school at the time. In high school, he by turns struggled and excelled — he took three attempts to graduate but scored top marks in art. He then spent a few months studying architecture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Finding the field too “rigid,” he told the podcast “Grilling” in 2021, he dropped out and moved to Sydney, where he attended art school. These studies, too, would ultimately be short-lived, but travels in Japan, stints waiting tables and work in kitchens eventually inspired him to open his own place, Bills.
“I had no formal training as a chef, and I’ve always said that, ironically, this was a great training,” Mr. Granger wrote in “Australian Food.” “I wasn’t tied down by any rules about food and fine dining. I didn’t even know the rules I wasn’t supposed to be breaking. It puts me on a parallel with the Australian way of eating: joyfully lacking in fixed assumptions or strict culinary history.”
It was at Bills that the real business of breakfast began. Finding few proprietors prepared to rent any site to a 22-year-old with no commercial experience (and just 30,000 Australian dollars, borrowed against his grandfather’s insurance policy), he settled on a site with a few dozen seats, no liquor license and a compulsory closing time of around 3 p.m., and set about transforming it into the communal dining setting of his dreams.