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  1. #1
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    Dishwasher' turned creative visionary

    Dishwasher' turned creative visionary in two cities

    TIMOTHY GAVAN BRENDAN CONNELL
    RESTAURATEUR
    10-2-1952 - 22-4-2012




    A RENAISSANCE man with an eye for fashion and an ear for opera, Tim Connell was a man of his time confident enough to ignore the latest trend, turning instead to history's rear-vision mirror when it provided something superior. The trait could raise its head in the form of a perfectly tailored vintage suit, a dish done the traditional way, or a restaurant concept such as the Last Aussie Fish Caf.

    Connell, who has died of prostate cancer at Epworth Eastern in Box Hill, was a pioneering man of two cities. The Melbourne-born restaurateur found the notion of Sydney versus Melbourne food nonsense, preferring a bite of both as he built a restaurant empire that straddled both cities.


    His partnership with the screen-filling TV cook Ian Hewitson at the Last Aussie Fish Caf transplanted 1950s American culture into Melbourne at the height of the shoulder-padded 1980s. The jukebox bashed out Leader of the Pack, rock'n'roll dancers hit the floor and this deliberately kitschy party restaurant spread its wings to Bayswater Road, Kings Cross, in 1988.

    Footscray isn't known for producing opera and philosophy-loving men with an eye for Italian linen, but Connell always held his boyhood home in high esteem, a one-eyed supporter of the Western Bulldogs. He was aged 12 when his world turned upside down with the death of his father, a pharmacist. The family moved to The Basin.

    The staff at Whitefriars College felt Connell had the perfect temperament for the priesthood, but he had other callings. He was determined to find his way by sampling as much of life as he could fit in. He worked as a flight attendant, and took time out to travel around Australia.

    He attended Melbourne State College, where he met Gabrielle Leber, who would later carve out a career as a singer with Opera Australia. She felt they were too young to get serious, but Connell was on a mission. When they parted briefly, he took her mother, Ruth, to the opera, a move that infuriated Gabrielle. They married in 1980.

    Armed with a degree in education, he couldn't shake his love of food. He got a start at Melbourne's famed Stephanie's restaurant, where owner-chef Stephanie Alexander described him as a dishwasher who could discuss philosophy and sing an aria while shelling peas.

    With an eclectic and evolving aesthete, Connell's early ventures are remembered for their uncompromising approach. The sorbets he created at Trocadero Fine Sorbet were high quality, and he soon had an order for 500 litres for a function attended by the visiting Queen. His tiny machine could only make a few litres at a time, so he stayed awake for 24 hours to fill the order.

    Connell was the first to supply Melbourne restaurants with fresh oysters from Tasmania. When he attended a restaurant seminar where an industry figure spoke about the superiority of the local food scene over Sydney, Connell made a point of going up after the session to disagree.

    He believed Sydney had great competitive advantages with its harbour, inbound tourists and Sydney diners' thirst to give anything a go. Having witnessed the adverse effect on trade that the opening of the Southbank waterside development had on the Last Aussie Fish Caf in South Melbourne, he was one of the first to sign on at Sydney's Cockle Bay, opening his Coast restaurant to acclaim in 1998.

    Connell and his partners were at the forefront of a Melbourne food invasion of Sydney that later included restaurateur Maurice Terzini and chef Teage Ezard.

    Those who worked with Connell talk about his loyalty and mentoring, and gentle skills, even when telling someone their strengths might be better served in another industry.

    Buoyed by the success at Coast, Connell and his business partners expanded, correctly predicting the success of the Woolloomooloo Wharf development where they opened Manta Ray. But not all their Sydney restaurant projects fired; Liberte was short-lived despite the presence of noted Melbourne chef Philippe Mouchel in the kitchen.

    Connell never lost his interest in or business ties with Melbourne, and was co-owner of The Venetian restaurant in his home town.

    When he was diagnosed with cancer at the end of May last year, Connell scaled back his unrelenting travel between the two cities to spend more time with his family at their home in North Balwyn.

    He continued to dabble in landscape and interior design and never lost his interest in the broad sweep of the arts - from music to anything Italian, as well as philosophy - that came to define much of his life.

    He is survived by his wife, Gabrielle, daughters Alexandra and Miriam, and his siblings Elizabeth, Mary-Louise and Gavan.
    Western Bulldogs Football Club "Where it's cool to drool"

  2. #2
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    Re: Dishwasher' turned creative visionary

    The Banker was a valued poster on Woof, and more importantly obviously a wonderful brother BIDs54, and reading form his obituary, he led a life that was enriched by living out his passion for creating amazing food. We should all be so brave to follow our dreams, as The Banker surely did.
    Thanks for sharing BIDs54

  3. #3
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    Re: Dishwasher' turned creative visionary

    Dearest WOOFERs my dear brother Tim, The Banker after whom this thread is gracefully named, respect to GVGjr.
    I was born in Droop Street on Tim's second birthday and he was told I was his birthday present.
    I joined WOOF then told Tim.
    He did not tell me he joined but when this new poster The Banker joined and contributed I posted a positive reply.
    When I next met my brother he told me he was The Banker and said it was amazing I was his first enthusiastic responder.
    I reckon I was more Bulldog faithful than him, going to losing matches on my own and I kept coming back. Haha but Tim would get us seats like under Eade's coaching box. His comedian friend came with us to a '95? game v Geelong at Princes Park for top spot. The comedian riled the Cat's crowd around us all game, hilarious. We won. We three had a ball.
    Last edited by BornInDroopSt'54; 06-06-2022 at 02:41 AM.

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  5. #4
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    Re: Dishwasher' turned creative visionary

    In the 50's in Droop St we would wander to Western Oval through the back streets, Tim 7, me Gavan 5 or so. We could get in for free and see John Schultz, Teddy Whitten and team training,. We would go on the oval at the end. We found ourselves in the training room at the end of matches. I remember Ted jnr, younger than me, on the oval when we kicked balls.
    Tim was a charmer even from a young age I realise now.
    We climbed into the grandstand to see Lou Richards and Ron Casey as little kids and gave them our autograph books. Lou told Ron off because he said no. They must have been broadcasting at the time.

  6. Thanks GVGjr, bornadog, westbulldog, Eastdog, Max469 thanked for this post
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  7. #5
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    Re: Dishwasher' turned creative visionary

    Good memories BIDS54, thanks for posting
    FFC: Established 1877

    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

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  9. #6
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    Re: Dishwasher' turned creative visionary

    We lived at 81 Droop St, near its end.
    Bob and Ricky Spargo live a few doors down in the Fire Brigade flats. I kicked a plastic footy with Ricky.
    The Spurlings were our family friends, living opposite the gateway to Footscray Park.
    Whitten oval is in Spurling Park and Robert and I went to school together at St Monica's before he played in FFC under 19s, then conscripted to Vietnam, came back and was killed on the road to Puckapunyul.
    His brother played for our 1sts.
    Spurlings still have a formal suit shop in Footscray.
    As a little kid, I would check the inner pocket on the suits on display. Some had footy cards in them with my heroes.
    1959, two years before Hawks beat us in '61 GF.
    1959 John Jillard, Ray Baxter, Ray Walker, Bob Spargo, Ted Whitten captain/coach, prized cards but any Footscray player lit up my eyes. Being a good catholic boy I always put the cards back after feasting my eyes.
    The Banker shared it all with me and was a larger than life leader and brother.
    Tim convalesced at Peter McCallum leaving those who visited feeling up lifted from the visit. He rejecte the view of fighting it. He was reconciled to death. I felt so accepting of death thereafter, zero fear.
    Tim saw nothing of Bontempelli but maybe pulled some strings somewhere.
    Last edited by BornInDroopSt'54; 07-06-2022 at 01:28 AM.

  10. #7
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    Re: Dishwasher' turned creative visionary

    They are beautifuel memories of a much loved brother and a very talented man who led life to the full. Sorry for your loss.
    http://journals.worldnomads.com/merantau
    "It's not about the destination - it's about the trip."

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  12. #8
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    Re: Dishwasher' turned creative visionary

    Quote Originally Posted by merantau View Post
    They are beautifuel memories of a much loved brother and a very talented man who led life to the full. Sorry for your loss.
    Thank you Merantau, hope something resonates for other Bulldog supporters.

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  14. #9
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    Re: Dishwasher' turned creative visionary

    Quote Originally Posted by BornInDroopSt'54 View Post
    We lived at 81 Droop St, near its end.
    Bob and Ricky Spargo live a few doors down in the Fire Brigade flats. I kicked a plastic footy with Ricky.
    The Spurlings were our family friends, living opposite the gateway to Footscray Park.
    Whitten oval is in Spurling Park and Robert and I went to school together at St Monica's before he played in FFC under 19s, then conscripted to Vietnam, came back and was killed on the road to Puckapunyul.
    His brother played for our 1sts.
    Spurlings still have a formal suit shop in Footscray.
    As a little kid, I would check the inner pocket on the suits on display. Some had footy cards in them with my heroes.
    1959, two years before Hawks beat us in '61 GF.
    1959 John Jillard, Ray Baxter, Ray Walker, Bob Spargo, Ted Whitten captain/coach, prized cards but any Footscray player lit up my eyes. Being a good catholic boy I always put the cards back after feasting my eyes.
    The Banker shared it all with me and was a larger than life leader and brother.
    Tim convalesced at Peter McCallum leaving those who visited feeling up lifted from the visit. He rejecte the view of fighting it. He was reconciled to death. I felt so accepting of death thereafter, zero fear.
    Tim saw nothing of Bontempelli but maybe pulled some strings somewhere.
    Please give me more.
    "It's over. It's all over."

  15. Likes BornInDroopSt'54 liked this post

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