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23 August 2014

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Starter for 10: interview with Peter Gordon

(menu)

peter gordon - Peter-Gordon.jpgKiwi chef Peter Gordon has had a busy few months. In January, he launched fusion restaurant Kopapa, in Covent Garden. Earlier this month, his charity event, Who’s Cooking Dinner? – where some of London's top chefs cook for the highest-bidding table – raised nearly half a million pounds for Leuka, an organisation that funds research into leukaemia. Square Meal got the lowdown on what makes this unstoppable chef tick, from the joys of Elizabeth David to the horror of poached beef with kiwi-fruit salsa.

How did Who’s Cooking Dinner? go this year?

Really well – we raised a total of £431,000 for the hospital this year. People paid £6,000 for a table of 10. I enjoy the event a lot – I get to see the trends in food, the latest techniques, like the latest way of doing a quenelle, for example. The guests have no idea what or who they’ll get. There are some chefs who have been at every event – Phil Howard, Sally Clarke, Mark Hix – but every year we change three or four people to keep the variety. I think the record bid was £26,000 for Rainer Becker (Zuma).

Kopapa is already popular for its breakfasts; what do you normally have for breakfast?

I love porridge, and I also love eggs – I could eat them every day. Actually, my favourite part of the day is breakfast time – on my days off. I have a 20-minute stretching routine that I do in the mornings to relax.

What's your earliest food memory?

This sounds so American, but it’s probably making apple pie with my mum just before my parents divorced when I was four.

What was your impression of British food before you came here?

My step-mum is a Cockney, so I was raised on badly cooked vegetables and overcooked lamb. I guess I didn’t really know what British food was – the only British food writer I’d read was Elizabeth David, and she extolled the virtues of Mediterranean cuisine.

If you hadn't become a chef, what would you have been?

Originally, I wanted to be an architect, and then a winemaker, although my family never drank wine. But then I moved to Australia, and got a job in a restaurant as a waiter, which was my start in the restaurant business.

peter gordon2 - Peter-Gordon2.jpgWhat's been the proudest moment of your career?

Getting the ONZM (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit) from the Queen in 2009. Also, Who’s Cooking Dinner? is something I’m very proud of. We’ve raised a total of about £3.1m now, over the past 13 years, and we’ve taken the idea to New Zealand, too.

What's the worst example of fusion you've seen on a menu?

Poached beef with a kiwi-fruit salsa, which I saw in an Australian restaurant in the 1980s.

Are there two cuisines that can never be fused?

Probably Polish and Vietnamese.

What's your guilty food pleasure?

Kit Kats – not the chunky ones – and Ferrero Rocher.

What would your last meal be?

Duck coconut curry with sticky rice, then Alphonso mango with mascarpone cream and biscotti. And plenty of coriander and mint in the curry, too.

What one characteristic of New Zealand and its people would you like to see in the UK?

A more egalitarian, open-minded approach to things. In kitchens, especially.

Read the full interview in Square Meal Lifestyle Spring 2011. Photography courtesy of Stephen Perry.

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