Head Chef, Gerard’s Bistro
Born, bred and trained in Western Australia, Ben Williamson cut his culinary teeth in several Perth restaurants in the late nineties and early noughties. He relocated to Sydney in 2001 to work with the Stamford Plaza in Double Bay, gaining invaluable experience in the à la carte restaurant of a busy, five-star operation.
In 2002, Ben was recruited by Gulf Air, relocating to Bahrain to create and deliver the in-flight menu for first-class passengers. Several years in the role saw him travelling widely, working with renowned chefs around the world. The Gulf Air gig had a huge impact, broadening Ben’s culinary horizons and helping to formulate his own style. Returning to Perth in 2006, he joined the primo Ultimo Catering Co as Senior Sous Chef.
2009 saw Ben relocate to Brisbane, where he worked with several of the city’s most highly acclaimed and awarded restaurants. He initially teamed up with 1889 Enoteca, subsequently taking the helm at Cha Cha Char and Organic Char (the latter earning top marks in the Courier Mail’s restaurant rankings). In 2011, he joined the cutting edge team at Urbane/The Euro. Ben was one of eight master chefs chosen for the 2011 Variety of Chefs Ball.
In perhaps his biggest challenge and tallest order to date, Ben teamed up with the Moubaraks in 2012 to launch Gerard’s Bistro—creating the menu and driving the kitchen for the new restaurant and bar. Gerard’s is the culmination of everything he knows and loves about food and dining.
For Ben, Gerard’s is next generation bistro. “Bistro here is more about a style of dining than a style of food. While Gerard’s Bistro remains big on being informal and approachable, we’ve taken the nosh up a notch. We’ve built a great kitchen and assembled a great team—we’re certainly aiming to push the boundaries. We’re applying contemporary techniques to traditional cuisines, taking inspiration from Southern Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. The focus is on seasonal local produce and exciting flavours. Gerard’s aims to be more of a destination—more of an experience—than the cosy home-away-from-home you may think of as bistro. Both the restaurant and the menu reflect this.”
One thing Ben is particularly excited about is the opportunity to make great bar cuisine with people who know how to run a great bar. “We share a love of bar cuisine—the style of food, the whole philosophy. And these guys have their origins in bars. It’s an exciting combination. We’re dedicating part of the menu to bar cuisine—small portions, big flavours, perfect accompaniments. Everything on the menu is designed to be flexible and interactive—encouraging sharing, mixing and matching. It’s serious food, done in a fun way.”
Ben lives in Ashgrove with fiancée Louella and kids Malachi and Ava. Outside Gerard’s, Ben tries to stay out of the kitchen as much as possible, limiting his concocting to craft brewing. If you like his Valrhona Aero, wait till you try his Chocolate Porter!