As the son of a grazier who ran a large beef, cattle and wheat estate in Central West Queensland, Cha Cha Char Owner John Kilroy’s passion for food can be pinpointed to an aunty he grew up with and his father, who was pedantic about food. Kilroy says, “I grew up eating amazing food. I had a yard full of fruit trees, we would kill fresh meat, my Aunt made all the soups and stocks from scratch.”

As a young man, he moved to Townsville where he lived and worked as a waiter. Whilst there, he learnt the art of conversing with people, observing their interactions and how to provide the perfect dining experience. Which soon made him one of the most popular waiters in the restaurant. However, even though he loved the land, Kilroy chose to buy cash-flow businesses and did surveying, property development and bought pubs, which eventually led him to buy Giardinetto in Fortitude Valley in the 1980s.

In order to better manage Giardinetto, he went under the tutelage of a French chef who taught him how to understand food, ingredients and to develop his palate. This experience increased his knowledge, understanding and passion for food well beyond his expectations. As a person who can intuitively know how to create a dish and replicate what is in dishes that he enjoys, Kilroy has created his restaurants based on what he enjoyed eating but could not find. His understanding of food and service combined with his love of meeting people has created a business empire that has changed and shaped people’s understanding and education of dining throughout the country.

Kilroy’s favourite aspect of hospitality is being able to witness a diner’s instant gratification. “You can see when a person loves a dish and if there is an issue you can fix it instantly,” he says. Furthermore, he adds that because people choose to take time out of their lives to spend in restaurants, the emphasis needs to be on getting that time and experience right.

Currently, Kilroy continues to identify and address the challenges to the industry through his businesses. He is now focused on the continued growth of the fine dining industry through the need to train wait staff and he is creating unique solutions that will have greater impact beyond his businesses, as all of his visionary ideas have.

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