Ben Williamson: The Importance of Balance #VOC2014

MYCITYLIFE cooked up an interview with Ben Williamson, exploring his thoughts on The City’s current foodie culture, who he’s excited to be working with at this year’s Variety of Chef’s Ball, and what we can expect as taste sensations on the night.

From the archive: This article was from our original site -MyCityLife posted on 11 June 2014.

A culinary artist isn’t born overnight; their excellence is bred through a lifetime of rigorous training to learn the way of the knife. Every year, Australia’s top cuisine adepts unite at the Variety of Chef’s ball; their mission to create a night full of culinary adventure to raise funds for the children’s charity, Variety

And in 2014, Brisbane-based Ben Williamson is sharpening his knives for the third time as guest kitchen hotshot of this foodie extravaganza. As a father, he is completely proud to be able to continue to work with such passionate and professional people united in a great cause. While a local legend, Ben is well travelled, brewing his career within reputable restaurants around Australia, and flying sky high with Gulf Air to create quality menus and serving first-class passengers. Besides his family, Ben’s greatest achievement is the much-loved Gerard’s Bistro; one of The City’s most reputed eating holes to push the boundaries with traditional dishes inspired by the Middle East, Northern Africa and Southern Europe. 

A day in the life of Ben involves coffee, getting the kids organised for the day then preparing and managing lunch through to dinner at the restaurant. When he’s not in the kitchen, every spare second of time is spent with his family. MYCITYLIFE cooked up an interview with Ben, exploring his thoughts on Brisbane’s current foodie culture, who he’s excited to be working with at this year’s Variety of Chef’s Ball and what we can expect as taste sensations on the night. 

What are your thoughts on Brisbane’s current exploding foodie culture and how do you make sure Gerard’s contributes towards it?
I think the culture of food and dining is maturing quickly at the moment in Brisbane. More people are open to different things and embracing the abnormal and exciting. We try really hard to offer something of quality and value that keeps people excited and interested in dining out. Gerard’s has always been about the whole experience more than just the food and wine. I believe that is what keeps people coming back. We offer something fresh and unique and are always accessible to those that are interested.

You bring so much experience to the table of Gerard’s: what challenges do you create so you continue to grow in your craft as a chef and see Gerard’s become bigger and better?
I always try to look at what we do from a customer’s perspective. It’s often the case for chefs that they get caught up in routine and lose their edge. I also look at travel and exposure to new ideas. Inspiration often strikes from places you least expect and it’s important to keep an open and engaged mind.

How do you show your passion in your food?
Balance is so important. Taste, texture, smell, perception, sound, all these things should be scrutinized when serving every dish. Not a single dish leaves the pass without being analyzed. I never stop thinking about how to better a dish or better a menu by having the right mix of elements. 

Why do you think Variety Queensland is such an important charity?
As a father blessed with two beautiful children of my own I can identify with the families of the kids that are helped by the efforts of Variety Queensland. The help they provide really changes people’s lives. To be a part of that is a massive honour. 

Variety of Chefs Ball is going to be such an epic evening. What can guests can expect as part of this foodie experience?
Of course they can expect a lot of fun but also get insight into the great kids and families they will be directly benefiting, plus exposure to some of the biggest leaders in the culinary world and taste their individual styles and personalities.

There are ten chefs involved with coming on board for this event and given their success, it’s clearly a huge feat for them to come together for what is a few days in preparation for this one special evening. What do you think it shows when so many respected chefs are willing to unite for such a special event?
Firstly, it shows that the cause is strong, and secondly the massive efforts of Variety Queensland’s Events & Development Manager Mel Jefcoate and her team. Trying to unite and control ten-strong personalities and keep us all on track is probably like herding cats!

Who are you most excited to be working with for the event and why?
I can’t wait to serve my dish alongside Jiro from Wasabi. I had the pleasure of his menu in Noosa recently and I can tell you that you can expect a flavour sensation for the first course this year.

Yes, you will indeed be working with Jiro on the first entrée: are there any details you can pass on about the dish?
I can let slip that you’ll be sampling suckling pig from my own farmer Geoff Schultz of Toowoomba. The care and love that goes into his product is second to none and truly world-class. Offset by Jiro’s mastery of seafood and bold, clean flavours, expect a big start to the event.

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