Chef Spotlight: Billy Grant

Chefs & Culinary

Author's Note: Chefs are the backbone of so much of the work we do. Whether it’s culinary events that raise critical funds, our nutrition education programs that teach low-income families how to shop and eat on a budget, or even lobbying on Capitol Hill on behalf of hungry kids, chefs are some of our most dedicated volunteers and advocates.

We want to introduce our community to more of these chefs, so we’re starting an ongoing interview series that features these chef advocates. The next in our series is Chef Billy Grant, Chef/Owner of Billy Grant Dining in Hartford, CT. The restaurant group consists of three of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the Hartford area- Bricco Trattoria, Grants Restaurant, and Restaurant Bricco.  Chef Billy Grant has been the chair of Taste of the Nation Hartford for many years and has also supported Share Our Strength by participating in other No Kid Hungry events and fundraisers.

How did you become involved in Taste of the Nation Hartford?
When I opened Bricco, I was 29 and now I’m 45, so it was about 16 years ago. [Taste of the Nation] was an event that I knew about and heard about. At the time there weren’t events like this, so it was a really cool, unique event in Hartford but then more and more organizations started doing events that were similar. At the time, Bradford Thompson won Share Our Strength’s Chef of the Year award.  I attended Conference of Leaders that year and they spoke about making the Hartford event better. I became inspired through Conference of Leaders to get more involved. I went to the committee and told them about getting involved further and becoming the event chair. With my love of food, entertaining, hospitality it was a natural fit. From then on we did it every year.

What is your favorite thing about chairing the Hartford event?
Of course my favorite thing is making an impact on the kids who really need it. I try to keep in mind that this event is helping kids in the Hartford community. Hartford is a small community; everyone knows each other and gets along for the most part. It is nice to get this group of chefs and restaurateurs together for the cause.

Why is ending childhood hunger important?
I think the whole thing is really sad; in the greatest nation in the world, this problem inexcusable. After going to Conference of Leaders, I became inspired by Billy Shore; I think every child in America should have an education and good nutrition. In order to make a difference in the world, we need to invest in the younger generation.

What is your favorite aspect about being a chef and restaurateur?
The ability to put a smile on people’s faces, whether it’s a great meal -- or being able to participate in a charity event like Taste of the Nation. I feel fortunate that I have a successful business that I can take the time to participate in these sorts of events.

What’s the best meal you’ve had in recent memory?
My most memorable meal was the first time I went to Le Cirque. I went when I first got married. The train broke down and we didn’t get there until 10:30pm,  but the restaurant was still packed. I was blown away about how busy it was that late.

If you were invited to teach a cooking class about anything, what would it be?
I would do pasta making- making ravioli. It’s so fun! When I used to cook at Bricco we made fresh pasta every day.

What do you want people to know about childhood hunger in America?
I think they should know that it is still a problem. We need to give them the knowledge to make a difference.