Chef Guillaume Brahimi announced he is set to open a new restaurant, Guillaume, in the premises currently home to Darcy’s in Paddington in Sydney’s east next year. The news came after his well-publicised exist from Guillaume at Bennelong, where he will serve his last orders at the Sydney Opera House this month. Brahimi also announced this week that he will be joining Sydney skipper and accountant to the stars Anthony Bellaboard the 100-foot Supermaxi Perpetual Loyal for the one of the toughest ocean races in the world, the Rolex Sydney to Hobart. Kate Waterhouse caught up with the 46-year-old to chat about his career move, his new restaurant plans and his training regime before he sets sail on December 26.
So I hear you are sailing in the Sydney to Hobart.
Yes, I’m so scared but I am super excited. I have been on the boat and sailing with the crew [which includes celebrities Karl Stefanovic, Larry Emdur, Phil Waugh, Tom Slingsby and Jude Bolton] every weekend and it’s just amazing, a great bunch of people, amazing camaraderie and so we are doing the right thing because we are raising money for the children [through the LOYAL foundation].
What is the training schedule like?
A lot of carrying sails! I’m just amazed by this boat, it’s so big and powerful and you have all these guys who are professional sailors and they know what they are doing, but also they a really looking after you so I feel very excited.
Do the celebrity crew members get it a bit easier or do you have to put in as much work as the professional sailors aboard Perpetual LOYAL?
No we are lucky, they look after us! [Laughs].
Tell me about your new restaurant.
I’m very excited about it, it’s quite amazing because 13 years ago when my daughter was born, we had one night off from the hospital, and I asked wife, Sanchia, where she wanted to go and she said “I want to go to Darcy’s” and now knowing that I am going to take over it, it is very exciting. It’s such a beautiful building, every time I pass Hargrave Street I look at it and I think “that is what I would like to have a restaurant one day”. I’ve been 12 years in this amazing iconic world heritage building, The Sydney Opera House, and I thought, “Where was I going to move?” It’s very hard to compete, it’s impossible so I wanted to do the opposite, forget the water views, I wanted to do something small and it’s exactly where I wanted to be now so all my team are so excited for the next chapter.
When do you open the doors?
We will probably open in April, nothing crazy, no rush… I will get some time off; I am going to New York and LA with the whole family in January so I’m super excited to take them there.
What should customers expect from the new restaurant?
I haven’t thought about the menu but it’s going to be a continuation of what we have been doing at Bennelong, with some innovation in a way of making it a stamp of Guillaume in Hargrave street. But at the moment I’m just thinking about the design of the room and so forth. The menu, I have got an idea, but that will come very quickly when I sit down with my team.
Will you be sad to be leaving The Opera House after nearly 12 years running the site?
Yes, of course I will be because 12 years is a long relationship… I made the decision two months ago not to renew when it went to tender, so from that moment I knew it was going to finish. When you sign a lease you know when there is a starting date and a finishing date so it’s not like it comes by surprise and my belief has always been to have a very special fine dining restaurant and the Trust changed their vision and that’s OK.
Was it a tough decision not to resign the lease?
They did have to put it to tender and when I read the tender, it wasn’t a hard decision because it was not what I wanted to do, so it was an emotional decision but it was the right decision.
Do you think the Stokehouse is a good choice for that location?
I think they are a very good operator, I love going to the Stokehouse in Melbourne and I wish them well.
As a professional chef, do you cook at home?
Oh yes, I love cooking, I love having a night off or on a weekend if I’m home, I go to the markets and buy the produce. I look at the produce on offer and if I see beautiful asparagus, I’ll do something with asparagus, and I that is the down time when Sanchia and I catch up, we leave the kids to watch TV or do their own thing and I’m cooking with a glass of wine with my wife, and that is a very special moment for us.
If you were to die tomorrow, what would be your last meal?
It would be some great Australian produce, I just got back from Margret River so it would also include some great Margret River wine and be surrounded by the people that I love.
What are some of your favourite restaurants, besides your own?
In Sydney we are so lucky, we have amazing restaurants, I love going to Rockpool Bar and Grill as well as Three Blue Ducks in Bronte.
What do you do in your spare time?
Cooking! I love just having friends over, travelling and spending time with my family.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Hopefully settled at the new restaurant and having time with my family and really enjoying the cooking we are doing at Guillaume.
WE WENT TO The LOYAL Ladies Lunch, Guillaume at Bennelong, Sydney Opera House.
WE ATE Spanner Crab, with cucumber, dill and oyster cream; Barramundi, with carrot, ginger and coriander; Nougat, with peanuts, caramel and banana.
WE DRANK Sparkling mineral water.
Photo: Jacky Ghossein