As published in Hosponation.com on 4 June 2015
The eyes said it all, his sparkling with delight at sharing his knowledge, theirs with admiration. It was one of those moments that will not be forgotten, the day that Peter Gordon, New Zealand’s most recognised culinary star took a couple of hours from his seriously busy schedule to visit students at NZMA's Sylvia Park Campus.
With a few handpicked cookery students enlisted to help Peter with prepping, word quickly filtered through the training academy and before long everyone wanted to sit in on his masterclass.
The solution was to provide front bench viewing for the Level 3 cookery students and live stream the session to the aptly named Fusion café, on campus.
As Peter gave a verbal illustration of himself as a small boy of four from Whanganui sitting on the kitchen floor cutting out food images and recipes from magazines for a scrapbook, the students realised that his greatness started early with Peter cooking at home from the age of five.
And years later, while the rest of the culinary world contemplated which cultural food would be the ‘next big thing’ Peter composed the word Fusion to describe his new cooking style that would break culinary and cultural boundaries across the planet and take restaurant dining by storm.
It might have seemed like an achievable goal for any chef, however, Peter and his assistant, Neil Brazier, (head chef at The Sugar Club) were quick to tell the students that while it is a great career it is a hard career, “you have to work really, really, really hard but if you love it, it will love you back”.
With a touch of humour Peter remarked that he was one of only two boys, the other a Peter too, that took cooking in his class at high school. His father being an engineer, Peter had had plenty of experience wielding and making mechanical things, so cooking sounded like a good option instead.
“I became a chef at 18 and never looked back. It’s a great career because there are so many things you can do. You might work in a five star restaurant or for a catering company, write a blog or work for a magazine, travel using your skills – it is a truly inspiring career.” (That reminded Peter he has a cookbook due at the publisher’s in August which he hasn’t even started writing yet!)
“But what I will say to you is, ask questions! At The Sugar Club we don’t expect our new chefs to know everything about what we’re up to with food and ingredients. The biggest mistakes happen during the trial period in restaurants and often it is because new chefs are too shy to ask questions. Ask questions!”
As Peter adds salt to boiling water he explains that financially restaurants have to think smartly. “Be good with your financial side. Ninety-five percent of restaurants fail in the first few months in the UK and more often than not it’s because of finances. So use cheap salt! Don’t use flakey salt for boiling water, it costs too much.”
“And know where your skills are.” Peter says if you’re good at doing a particular type of food, Southern Indian, for example, why would you want to specialise in French cuisine?
The onions are cooking… “add salt, it will bring out the sweetness. Seasoning…salted water for boiling should taste like the sea…and with seasoning food you want an all over flavour in your mouth.”
While the onions are cooking the cous cous is being prepared. “Never add boiling water to cous cous. I know the packet says ‘add boiling water’ but it will make it glutinous, use tepid water.”
Cooking the risotto …”Don’t let the water cool or the rice will stop expanding.”it students at NZMA’s Sylvia Park Campus.e’s cooked with his helpers: Parmesan baked ricotta with chilli roast tomatoes and peas; Chorizo mash; Broccoli cous cous; Grilled scallops with sweet chilli sauce and crème fraiche, and Spiced berry and vanilla risotto. The oohs and aahs have gone around the room with the samples. There’s even been a bit of grappling for leftovers.
Intelligent questions have been asked from the audience, photos taken together and career opportunities inspired. And with a beaming smile, as he leaves the building, Peter admits that sharing and encouraging the next generation of chefs is something he truly enjoys and considers very important.
For more about this exciting event check out the latest story in HospitalityBusiness