The café, Bitton Gourmet in Alexandria, in Sydney, is celebrating its 20 years this month. We spoke to David Bitton of Bitton Gourmet about his beginnings, his background, Bitton Gourmet’s products and dishes and his plans for the next 20 years of the Bitton Group. Information about the anniversary dinners and links to book can be found at the end of this article.
On your website it says that the Bitton adventure started with a strawberry and vanilla jam, from a recipe passed down from grandmother to grandson. How?
My grandmother was Turkish and an incredible cook. I have vivid memories of sitting watching her macerating the fresh strawberries when they were in season as a very young boy. As I grew older and knew I was heading towards a career in food I begged her share the recipe. It’s is still the best jam I have ever tasted!
Before Bitton Gourmet, together with your wife Sohani, you had a café in Alexandria before Alexandria was what it is today. Why did you decide to open your first café in Alexandria?
It was during a trip to the Southern Highlands and a visit to a gorgeous café and shop called “That Little Jam Shop”. On the way home we decided that’s what we wanted to do – open a coffee shop and sell products. People thought we were crazy!
How long have your worked in the restaurant business? What inspired you to work in hospitality?
Since I was 15! I was pretty keen to get out of home but I also fell in love with the whole service industry. I was very driven from a young age.
When did you come to Australia and what led to you deciding to come to Australia?
I was working in Switzerland and I met a group of Australians who sold the country to me! At the time they were crying out for skilled chefs so the whole process wasn’t difficult!
Tell us about the family influences in your cooking. Have other family members worked in hospitality?
My family did not have a lot of money however my mother was very clever and cooking and preserving seasonally. I think watching her preserve the vegetables and meats for the Winter months probably had the biggest influence on me.
How do you find that your childhood in France, your grandfather’s Moroccan heritage and Sohani’s South African Indian background have influenced your cooking?
Before I met Sohani and her family I had not even tried chilli let alone cooked with it! Now I simply cannot imagine a meal without it !
What is your favourite product from the Bitton range?
The Strawberry and Vanilla Jam of course however I also always cook with our Chilli Oil.
What is your best-selling product?
The Bitton Chilli Oil.
What are the difficulties in running 3 restaurants in 3 different locations?
Being present enough in all 3 places. I am lucky that I now have strong teams in each venue who allow me to step away occasionally.
How has the restaurant business changed in the 20 years since the start of Bitton Gourmet?
Firstly, the amount of competition is incredible – when we first opened we had one other café in the area, now there are 30 within a 5km radius of or café.
Have Australian tastes changed and become more refined over these 20 years?
Australian’s palettes have definitely grown as we have a lively multi-cultural scene in Australia. Dining out has become part f people DNA specially in the city – that’s why we are now so spoilt with choice.
Tell us about how you decided on the dishes that form your 20th anniversary dinner.
All the dishes have played a role in my career as a chef. They are all signature dished from my time heading up various kitchens around the world. The matching wines also all have a story.
What’s your favourite Bitton dish?
Beef Eye Fillet with peppercorn sauce – on the menu for 20 years.
What do you think French cooking and culture have brought to Australia?
More than anything – skill and an appreciation for the finer ingredients. You can see traditional French method in so much of our cooking.
8 years ago, you started a consulting business. What does this entail?
The philosophy behind it has been to help start up or small food operators not make all the mistakes that we did! We are an advisory support basically – our team has many combined years in the industry that we can draw on. We would have love to have had a similar business there when we first started!
What inspires your menus?
Definitely my French heritage and my career however you will also see a strong influence from my wife and her family who are South African Indian.
Until now, what is the highlight of your career?
I am so proud to celebrate 20 years of business when so many don’t make it but I would say the true highlight is when I reached the stage that I would start giving back, especially to such important charities as The Ronald MacDonald House, Beyond Blue and the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA.
What can we expect from the Bitton group over the next 20 years?
We have a plan to open more cafes and definitely expand the Consulting arm of our business. We would also like to increase the presence further of our product range
When the original 7 November anniversary dinner date quickly sold out, Bitton Gourmet added two new dates, tonight, Friday 6 and this Sunday, 8 November. Reserve quickly to avoid missing out!
The anniversary dinner menu can be viewed below.
WHAT: dinner to celebrate 20th years of Bitton Gourmet
WHEN: 6, 7 (full), and 8 November
WHERE: Bitton Gourmet, Alexandria, Sydney
HOW MUCH: $180 per person paid in advance, which includes food and wine
HOW : Reserve your seat via the website: https://www.bittongourmet.com.au/events/bitton-20-year-anniversary-gala-dinner