Growing up with simple food in New Zealand Peter’s passion for world flavours was ignited in Australia. “I went to Melbourne for university when I was 18 and suddenly there was Vietnamese, Burmese, Ethiopian and Italian foods. I mean I didn’t know that spaghetti didn’t come in a can until I went to Australia. Instead of investigating all of those cuisines to try and work out what they were all for, I just threw it altogether and made dishes. The fusion thing was really me being like a kid in a toy shop with lots of ingredients and having fun.”
Peter’s approach to learning about new ingredients comes from his travels and tireless experimentation. “I’ve been pretty much all round the world except South America and I’ve seen what people will do with those ingredients. But I tend to look at food differently, instead of thinking, ‘well this is what you do with it and that’s the only way,’ I think ‘I wonder what else you can do with it?’
And with all those countries visited spanning the last 30-odd years Peter has eaten and discovered some of the best cusines in the world, but do any standout? “In 1986 when I first went to Malaysia I found the direction of Thai-ish flavours, with Indian and Chinese the most interesting food in south east Asia. In recent times, Istanbul – I’m always blown away by what’s going on there. There’s a real modern food thing happening, like bread baked inside chestnut leaves or buffalo milk clotted cream.
“Japan is also unbelievable. I love their attention to detail and attention to the seasons, which is something that I don’t do. When I was there it was cherry blossom, bamboo shoot and sancho pepper season and everywhere we went there were versions of these things and they were exquisite.”
Peter has been importing interesting flavours to the London dining scene for many years at Kopapa and The Providores and Tapa Room. “Kopapa is a bit more European and at lunch we have soft shell crab, a steak sandwich and burgers, it’s for the quick Covent Garden market. Providores in Marylebone is more out there. We’re really part of the furniture in Marylebone. The approach to food is the same in both restaurants, playful and a bit whimsical even. I rely on the teams as I also have restaurants in NZ. I have a team of young, great and enthusiastic chefs all round.”
The career success Peter is most proud of, however, is Who’s Cooking Dinner? A charity dinner he set up after his sister was diagnosed with leukemia in 1994. “I thought what if you could get about 20 chefs into a large kitchen at a hotel and each would produce a meal for 10 guests? We’ve now done 15 dinners and we’ve raised around £5 million for the charity Leuka. We’ve had people like Tom Kerridge, Marcus Wareing and Angela Hartnett cooking in satellite kitchens and it’s pretty exciting.”
With so many balls in the air, it’s hard to imagine that Peter has found the time to write nine cookbooks and he assures me he doesn’t have a ghost writer. “I love the process of writing but it’s a hard slog writing a book. Fusion the Culinary Journey is where I wanted to explain the philosophy behind it all and the latest one I did is called Everyday and I’ve really simplified everything.”
Peter’s culinary curiosity is completely infectious, so it’s little wonder then that he has pioneered the use of so many of our now much-loved ingredients and flavours. And, with a planned trip to South America and Mexico, we can’t wait to see what he conjures up next.
Peter Gordon Everyday by Peter Gordon published by Jacqui Small £17 Amazon
For more information visit peter-gordon.net