John Kilroy - Proprietor
Brisbane restaurateur John Kilroy is widely acknowledged as being one of the major contributors to the exciting reformation which has swept through the Australian red meat industry over the past six t eight years.
Through his iconic Brisbane Restaurant, Char Darwin Wine Bar and Grill, John has been one of the key architects in the rebuilding and repositioning of beef's image in the minds of restaurant and hotel diners across the country. The ongoing boom in quality steak dining venues across Queensland and eastern Australia is in no small way linked to the original vision for beef as a top - end restaurant product pioneered and implemented by John Kilroy.
Although he has spent the past 20 years immersed in Brisbane's "big city" fine dining and restaurant scene, John has lost none of the friendly, easy- going mannerisms instilled during a bush upbringing, having been raised on a grazing property near St George in Western Queensland.
Following several years knocking around Australia as a young surveyor, he decided to settle in Brisbane, choosing the hospitality industry as his future career path.
He established Brisbane's much-loved Giardinetto Restaurant in Fortitude Valley precinct in the 1980s. Acknowledgement soon followed when the venue was chosen as finalist in the 1984 Bulletin Quelltaler Restaurant of the Year awards.
Following the success of Giardinetto, John spent several years leasing and revitalising some of Brisbane's famous landmark hotels including the Broadway, the Terminus and the Barracks, before making his first major acquisition in 1992 with the purchase of Wanganui Gardens reception centre. After extensive redevelopment, the picturesque Wanganui Gardens site situated on the Brisbane River at Yeronga now caters for up to eight weddings weekly, as well as a busy schedule of conferences, seminars, balls and corporate events.
It was during 1996 that John started 'sizing up' opportunities for an inner city eatery, which eventually led to the establishment of Cha Cha Char. At the time of its opening in 1997, the concept of a top - end steak dining venue was considered a somewhat "risky" move within the food service industry. Traditionally, beef products had a reputation for inconsistency and unlike many other food products; there was also a lack of clear identity behind red meat. John's vision aimed to redefine beef as a popular dining option by cultivating the use of thorough - chain quality control mechanisms to eliminate inconsistency and to establish a distinct identity behind each different product on the menu. In much the same way that wines from different parts of Australia are celebrated for their regional characteristics, John set about finding similar points of difference between beef sourced from various regions. His passion was to promote beef as a valuable and diverse product rather than as a commodity.
What emerged was a beef menu unlike anything seen previously in the Australian food service scene - crammed with information about each individual supplier, their breeds of cattle, local soil types, the pastures grazed in the paddock and different grains and supplements fed during the production process, the age of the animal at processing, ageing processes and other information.
John has been a consistent and very vocal supporter of industry QA systems - most notably the Meat Standards Australia grading program - as a means of delivering consistently high eating quality through tenderness, juiciness and flavour. He was also one of the catalysts behind the emergence of beef brands and labels, highlighting points of difference between various products and also aided with advice for developers of branded beef products. Because of such changes, diners began to talk about beef in a new and exciting way.
In a classic case of 'imitation being the sincerest form of flattery', many principles which were pioneered through Cha Cha Char have since become widely adopted across the Australian food service industry.
John's lasting passion for, and great knowledge about red meat has led to him becoming an ' in-demand' speaker at industry gatherings throughout the beef supply chain. He travels widely throughout Australia speaking to beef producers, feedlot operators, processors and consumer groups with emphasis on changing consumer attitudes to beef and also means by which the industry can best address these challenges.
John has also placed great emphasis on educating diners and beef eaters about important issues such as correct storage and handling, to cooking techniques and maximising the flavours and tenderness from each individual cut. He has also been closely involved with the 'Trailblazing Paddock to Palates Taste Test Series' and has also led the challenge in familiarising Australian diners with exciting new products such as the highly marbled Wagyu beef.
Much of this is driven through:
- Restaurant beef tastings - conducted on a regular basis where clients have the opportunity to sample cuts of beef from a diverse range of feeding regimes, ages, breeds and geographic areas.
- Cooking demonstrations - undertaken regularly for the public and industry at Black Pearl Epicure, The Brisbane Home Show, Masters of Beef classes and Royal Brisbane Shows.
- Media contact - over time, John has become a widely quoted source within the extensive metropolitan and rural print and electronic media on matters relating to beef and consumer trends. He is well respected in his field and is contacted by journalists and writers throughout Australia on a regular basis for such opinions.