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Tony Bilson
, c. 2005

by George Fetting

gelatin silver photograph (sheet: 102.9 cm x 103.3 cm, image: 100.0 cm x 100.0 cm)

Tony Bilson (b. 1944), chef, grew up in Melbourne and opened his first restaurant, La Pomme d'Or, in Camberwell in 1971. Moving to the Albion Hotel in Carlton, he served French-inspired cuisine to regulars who flowed over the road from Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar. With his then-partner Gay, he left Melbourne for Sydney. There, in 1973, the couple opened Tony's Bon Goût, the establishment, according to Mietta's guide, which began to flush the Labor Party out of clubs and pubs into 'trendy bistros'. After he established Berowra Waters Inn with Gay in the mid-1970s, Bilson and his financial partner Leon Fink set up Kinselas, a theatre, bar and restaurant in a former funeral parlour in Taylor Square. The restaurant was central to the reinvention of the area as a cultural precinct in the early 1980s; the Sydney Dance Company made one of its earliest appearances there. Bilson's, adjacent to the International Terminal at Circular Quay, set a new standard for luxurious Sydney dining. Bilson is now Chef Patron of Bilson's in the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel. Regarded as an 'elder statesman' of Australian restaurateurs, he has written five books about food and his memoir will be published in October 2011. He is a sought-after speaker and contributor to newspapers, magazines and media events.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Tony Bilson 2008
Accession number: 2008.20