Five minutes with ... Peter Gordon

Peter Gordon with his new cook book, Peter Gordon Everyday. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Peter Gordon with his new cook book, Peter Gordon Everyday. Photo / Steven McNicholl

When New Zealand-born super-chef Peter Gordon offers to cook you lunch in a Herne Bay mansion you shift heaven and earth to make it happen because you never know when you'll get another chance. My problem was I only had 45 minutes, so this was going to have to be quick-fire on all accounts.

Luckily Peter's latest venture - a range of ready-made meals - saved the day and made for fast preparation. But I'll admit to being confused, given Gordon is known globally for his adeptness for playing with less obvious flavour and ingredient combinations when he creates the menus for his five restaurants, so why would he want to get involved with a range of ready-made meals? His answer surprised me.

"Mine are for foodies. They're deliberately not complete meals because they're for people who still like to cook.

"Take the kumara miso mash, it's great if you can't be bothered with much more than grilling a steak or piece of salmon to go with it. It's exactly the same recipe that we use at both Dine and The Providores in London, so why would you bother making your own?"

I asked Gordon if he ever bought ready-made meals.

"Absolutely. It may surprise you but I don't cook a five-course meal for myself every night at home. I'll duck into a Waitrose or Sainsbury's and pick up something to re-heat or use as a dish builder. And when I'm doing that, I still want them to be exciting, with flavours and textures that are creative and alive.

"When Pitango approached me for the Every Day range, I made sure that even though we're talking 'packaged and pre-made' they still serve to widen the scope of people's palate."

Gordon loves doing that - challenging folk by mucking around with the "usual order of things" in the kitchen. Recently he was on a marae down country helping to cook for 300-strong crowd and had to do a fair bit of smooth talking to get his recipes past the kitchen cooks.

"I suggested a kina dip and that we cook the pork with smoked paprika and soy and wrap it in banana leaf. It was met with 'but we don't do it that way' and I simply asked, why not? It's just not my way to accept the norm, I like to make food funky."

With a sly grin he tells me that he pushed it even further on the marae by serving the steamed pudding with a salted caramel sauce and it was a huge hit ... but not without a bit of convincing to encourage people to make the switch from regular caramel sauce.

Breaking with conventions has meant Gordon has inspired a generation of chefs who, by breaking the rules, are now heading up kitchens all over the world and who point to Gordon as a key influence in developing their own style of cooking. Chef Brad Farmerie, of Michelin-starred New York City restaurant Public, includes Gordon alongside Raymond Blanc as one of the two chefs he most admires. Anna Hansen of The Modern Pantry in London names Gordon and Fergus Henderson as the chefs she draws inspiration from, having worked with both in the early days of her restaurant career, while Christian Hossack, head chef at the newly opened Oyster Inn on Waiheke Island, was lured away from Gordon's Providores in London.

There are countless others who have worked with Gordon and who credit him with their success, and when I ask him how that makes him feel he responds in his typically soft, Kiwi accent that is, after more than 20 years of living in London, slightly clipped, "Oh, it's pretty marvellous actually and I guess I'm proud."

And all the while we've been chatting, he's managed to effortlessly throw together a three-course lunch and we laugh that, by his own admission, he overcooks the lamb. I smeared miso mash all over it and it was perfect.

* From this week, the Peter Gordon Every Day range can be found at selected New Worlds and specialty food stores nationwide.

- NZ Herald

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