Nicky Park

Editor of Life & Style.

Q&A Simon Gault (+recipes)

Simon Gault has a new book out, Homegrown.Photo / Supplied
Simon Gault has a new book out, Homegrown.Photo / Supplied

Simon Gault is a friendly chap.

I recently pulled up a tall harbour-side stool with the MasterChef New Zealand judge for a chat at one of his five eateries, Euro. He comes across as warm and passionate. He remembers that we already met one time last year, when Australian chef Matt Moran cooked up a storm at Euro during Auckland Restaurant Month. Gault and I only had a brief encounter that night, a couple of Tweets, but it was a nice touch for him to make that connection.

His new book, Homemade, is dedicated to his parents - "my best friends and staunchest critics" - he writes in the cover of the book.

Here's a little taste of our one-on-one.

You dedicated this book to your folks? What sort of role did they play in your culinary life?

They both cooked together in the kitchen when I was a kid, which was unusual from all my mates' parents. Most of them, just the mum cooked ... food was a big deal in our family.

It was always calves liver and stuff that people would turn their nose up at. There was no such thing as, if you don't like it you don't eat it. It was, if you don't like it then you went hungry.

So what's some of the wackier stuff you've eaten?

Generally weird stuff is great. I've tried cactus and rattlesnake. Anything done well is great. Some things are more challenging than others. Cat and dog and monkey don't inspire me at all.

When was the chef dream born?

A friend of my mum's owned a hotel and we stayed there and I went in to the kitchen and I remember thinking, I want to own one of these. I want to be a head chef.

So this book, what's it all about and why does every Kiwi need a copy in their collection?

Everyone always says to me, 'what do you cook at home?'. Well I don't cook what I cook in the restaurants, unless we've got somebody coming for dinner. But what I cook at home is good home cooking, and that's what this cook book is about. I've given the food that extra 5 per cent magic in the book. They're all family recipes.

There's lots of intimate snaps in the book, capturing you and your wife, Katrina, wining and dining. Do you like hosting dinner parties?

Yeah, I love it, I love it! I like putting a smile on people's faces. I like it when people try food and go 'wow!' There's no sitting at my dinner table and not commenting on the food. I want to hear that you think of it.

I'm from out of town, so not really familiar with your pre-MasterChef life. How did that come about?

That was sort of a fluke really. I got asked if I could audition for the show and unfortunately I was going to be overseas so I couldn't. When I came back I ended up getting an invite to be on it. I never dreamed that I'd end up on TV.

If the reality show was something you could have had a crack at, would you have been up for it?

Hell no! I know what it's like. The television aspect of me, I never would have been in to.

Hold on a gosh darn minute! You've done four seasons of the show. Chefs, they're like rockstars. You've obviously come around to the idea?

I stumbled upon it. The days of chefs hiding in the kitchen are gone. When I started chefs didn't go out to the table. But now, people want to know about the food. Chefs are now ambassadors of food. And television 'celebrity' chef - I don't like the name 'celebrity' - I think food ambassadors is what we are.

Check out these recipes from, Homemade:

* Simon Gault's molten chocolate puddings

* Shrimp fritters

* Chipotle mussels

* Homemade, by Simon Gault, published by Penguin is available now. RRP $60.00.

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