Celebrated chef, mentor, author and industry icon Dr Bill Gallagher dies

“It is not possible to measure the impact Billy had all over the world, with young chefs, executive chefs and the hospitality field as a whole.” This is just one of the many tributes on Facebook by award-winning American chef Charles Carroll to Dr William (Bill, Billy) Gallagher, 68, who died on Thursday, 19 May 2016.

Condolences and outpourings of grief have flooded in from around the world, fondly calling Billy an inspiration, an icon, a legend, a mentor, a gentleman, a supportive and collaborative chef, and a good friend.

The British-born chef’s early career began with him honing his skills at The Dorchester Hotel in London, before moving to South Africa in 1973 to take up an executive sous chef position at the Southern Sun. His list of accolades, which includes cups and medals from the Culinary Olympics, seems endless. A certified Master Chef from Westminster College in London, Billy held an honorary doctorate in Culinary Arts from the University of Johnson and Wales, Miami. He became president of the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) in 1996. Despite an attempted hijacking in 2000 that left Billy a quadriplegic, he remained an unstoppable force in the culinary industry, becoming the WACS honorary life president the same year. The honorary member of several prestigious chefs’ circles and federations around the world, he was also made the Honorary President of the South African Chefs Association in 2003 after over two decades serving as president.

An advocate of training and uplifting young chefs, Billy was instrumental in the first apprenticeship programme for young chefs and was a founder member of the original Hospitality Industry Training Board. In addition to the five years he spent as chairman of the board at the University of Johannesburg’s School of Tourism and Hospitality, Billy was involved in the South African tourism industry as group food and beverage director for Southern Sun, and he brought a host of international culinary celebrities to the country to highlight the role that food and beverage can play in tourism.

One of his many humanitarian endeavours involved being joint convener of the World Chefs Tour Against Hunger, which took place in South Africa in August 2011. His illustrious, multifaceted career made him an undoubtedly worthy recipient of the Eat Out Lifetime Achievement award, which he won in 2005. According to reports, Billy passed away peacefully in his sleep. Our thoughts are with his wife, Linda, children, grandchildren and extended family, friends and associates.

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