It was a case of love at first sight for prominent Perth restaurateur Alain Fabrégues, who will detail his journey to Australia at Curtin University’s next History of Migration Experiences (HOME) event at the WA Maritime Museum on Sunday.
Mr Fabrégues, who opened the acclaimed The Loose Box in the Perth Hills in 1979 and now runs Bistro des Artistes in Subiaco, first arrived in Australia from France in 1970.
He will be joined in answering the questions of ABC reporter Verity James at the HOME event by his fellow Frenchman and Bistro des Artistes colleague Emmanuel Mollois.
“I arrived in Perth by boat on the 18th of March 1970 – I had my 21st birthday part-way between South Africa and Australia,” Mr Fabrégues recalled.
“I went to the Bonegilla migrant camp in Victoria. Straight away everybody was so nice, teaching us English, wanting to help us find jobs.
“I fell in love with Australia right away.”
Despite spending his early days in Australia in Victoria, Mr Fabrégues knew he wanted to end up in Perth.
“I met a beautiful girl on my way through Perth and I wanted to see her again,” he said.
“I told the people at the camp that I wanted to go to Perth and they said as long as I got a job and a sponsor that would be OK.
“My first job was at the Parmelia. I caught a train all the way from Melbourne, got to Perth at 11am and started work at 4pm. And I haven’t stopped since.
“Food in Australia was very different then. Before we started exporting, local produce was so cheap – you could walk in somewhere and buy a steak for $1.50 and crayfish for $1.80.”
The HOME interview series is presented by the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP) in association with the Western Australian Museum. Previous guests have included pop star and radio identity Johnny Young and entertainer Max Kay.
Sunday’s event in Fremantle is free of charge and runs from 2pm to 3.30pm at the Maritime Museum’s NWS Shipping Theatre.