About Michel Bonnet
THE FRENCH BOY ARRIVES IN SYDNEY
I arrived in Sydney in 1969 and knocked on every restaurant door until I was confronted with Mr Signore Batista, owner of the Grotta Capri in Kensington, who gave me a job. He must have seen me coming. I ended up working more hours than everyone else for half the pay.
The Grotta capri
I have fond memories of Signore Batista, despite him promising more money and not delivering. “One day you’ll have your own restaurant, Michel,” he’d say. He pushed me to work better, faster and smarter and taught me about Italian food: mounds of soft pasta dough, freshly-rolled pasta hanging on the balustrade, and the importance of long hours of simmering to make a rich tomato sauce. The kitchen hands peeled garlic endlessly, and I never saw that much basil or oregano in my life…
My first Restaurant
The Hi Ho Broadbeach
The Gold Coast lacked good restaurants and was as good a place as any to open my own business. Sydney had been a place to party, not save money. Motorbikes and cars cost money; they don’t make any. I looked around and eventually came to a newly completed motel with a ‘Restaurant for Lease’ sign out front in Queensland Avenue, Broadbeach. It was a nice area, so I went in and met Mr Ackerman, who wanted someone to establish the restaurant.
Given my lack of funds, we talked for a long while about who would finance what. He worked hard to get something out of me, but there wasn’t much to get. At one point he suggested I put my motorbike up as a bond – fat chance! It took us a few weeks but finally we struck a deal. He’d set up the restaurant the way I wanted it; I’d buy all the crockery, cutlery, pots and pans. I’d pay him a fair rent and, for his trouble, he’d keep all the takings from alcohol sales. Would I come to regret that one….
Return to Burgundy
I’m so lucky that I can go back home to France when I please. When I’m in Australia home is France; when I’m in France, home is Australia. But really my only home is Seurre, my little village in the middle of Burgundy.
No other region in France combines great wines and great food in such a harmonious way, as in Burgundy……