Peter Gilmore is executive chef of Quay restaurant in Sydney. His award winning restaurant have recently been titled the top 27th restaurant in the world and having said that it has been labelled restaurant of the year as well as having three chef hats stuck on it. I was very lucky and privileged to be joined by Peter Gilmore for an interview.
“I left year 10 to do my apprenticeship in 1984.” Peter explained. “I actually got the job there because I did work experience from school, the chef then recognized that I was passionate.” Three years through his apprenticeship, Peter headed off to the UK to work in premium hotels and country house hotels before heading back home. In August 2001, Quay was lucky to have their new executive chef, Peter Gilmore to join to restaurant team.
Me : Peter, you are very inspired by nature and its diversity. Your dishes are very nature inspired as well, how did this passion all start?
Peter : It started about 5-6 years ago. I started growing vegetables in my own backyard and as a chef it was always what I wanted to do but didn’t have the space to do it, so I moved into a place that have a backyard and started growing and just really loved it. Just really from that experience and then started looking at catalogues to find out what was available and the different variety of vegetables, it really just sort of sparks something in me that really sort of changed the way I cooked in a lot of ways because you know looking at the growth cycles of plants and you know the seeds, the pods and the shoots. All that sort of things and I made a lot of discoveries along the way like pea flowers and things like that, that I can use in my cooking. And really it became a passion.
Me : You use very much of baby vegetables and baby flowers in your dishes.
Peter : Yes, we do. We actually team up with a farmer up in the blue mountains, a guy called Richard and we got him to grow some of the things I have been experimenting with on a commercial scale so we can use them in the restaurant.
Me : Can you tell us more about your philosophy of cooking here in Quay restaurant?
Peter : Well look, really, my philosophy of cooking falls down to quite a simple thing really, it’s about ingredients and bringing out the very best in the flavors of the ingredients. Use of texture, flavor and really trying to find balance and harmony in each dish. You know I am quite inspired by Asian cooking, Japanese and Chinese cooking and the use of texture as one of the main components in cooking so my philosophy really within a dish is to let the ingredients speak to me and work out how I should cook them to present them at their best.
Me : Your restaurant Quay has been awarded many awards including ‘Restaurant of the Year’, ‘Three chef hats’ and now more exciting for yourself, the restaurant is labelled top 27th restaurant in the world by San Pallegrino, were you surprised when that happened?
Peter : Well look, last year was the first year that we were on the list and that was a real thrill getting into the top 50 restaurants in the world and this year, we were invited again and we weren’t sure where we would be place. But as the night unfolded, we actually realized that we are gonna be in the 20s, number 27th and being named the best restaurant in Australasia was a huge honor and really it was something that we are very proud of.
Me : Your cookbook, ‘Quay’ is coming out soon, end of this year. Can you tell us more about the book and the inspiration behind it?
Peter : Well the book, really is a representation of the food that we do here in Quay so its all recipes, all the techniques and all the philosophy behind the dishes. Its a book for very keen cooks to buy, its not a how to cook book, its a book that represents the food that we do here in Quay and the inspiration behind the dishes. Beautifully photographed and its very exciting work, really proud of it. It will be out in October.
Me : Have you got a good tip for cooking seafood?
Peter : I think with seafood especially, you need to cook it quite delicately, you need to respect its natural sort of flavors. Seafood to me is quite a subtle thing and I think really to bring out the best is to.., I prefer to cook seafood quite gently. But depending on what kind of seafood and what it is , like abalone for example, you can cook it very slowly for 6-7 hours and make it incredibly tender or you can slice it very thin and cook it very quickly. Again, depending on what seafood it is but I think looking at the natural flavors. I mean Seafood is one of the most creative ingredient that a chef can work with, it lands itself to a lot of great flavors. But you really don’t wanna overdo it or you wont be able to taste the lobster for example.
Me : In terms of gentle cooking, do you use very much of Sous-Vide?
Peter : I use a little bit of Sous-Vide, definitely. I use quite a bit of temperature control cooking, we also do a lot of things like poaching and what we sort of use is like a water bath, the technology for that is to maybe to be able to hold some butter or maybe ginger and spring onion infused oil at an exact temperature for that protein to set in. So, rather than just cooking it in a bag, we are actually cooking in a flavored medium and using either the Sous-Vide technique or the temperature control bath of liquid to poach things in.
Me : Have you got a favourite herb?
Peter : Not really, there is so many great flavors out there. It is hard to have a favourite. One of the most useful herb I think is thyme but look, a favourite would probably be… I like Chervil.
Me : Have you got a favourite ingredient and why?
Peter : Again, that is a really difficult one. Because they are so many fantastic ingredients out there. Abalone will be right up there because of its texture and it is sort of expensive rare ingredient that is really nice for people to enjoy in the restaurants and it is not something that you will be probably do at home.
Me : Top five items to have in your pantry?
Peter : I think that’s pretty standard in some ways, because the most useful things are things like Parmesan cheese, Olive oil, Pasta. For me it will also be chocolate and I reckon Balsamic vinegar.
Me : Have you got a favourite restaurant in Australia?
Peter : Obviously, there are some great restaurants in Australia and it is hard to have a favourite but besides Quay, I would recommend Attica. Attica in Melbourne, I think what Ben is doing is fantastic and he is a creative young chef.
Me : Have you any tips for anyone who wants to be a chef?
Peter : Look I think you’ve got to be passionate about cooking, you gotta love it and thats going to be the main reason why you want to be a chef. And then I would say, get experience wherever you can to start off with and don’t stop trying to get into a good place but you don’t necessarily have to start at the very top, you got to have to start somewhere as long as you don’t get stuck and you move forward. And my big tip would be read and read a lot.
Meeting one of the top 50 chefs in the world was such a thrilling opportunity and it was something that I will never forget. Having Peter accept my interview was very generous of him. Dining in his restaurant was incredible but having to meet the chef behind the dishes and having an interview with himself was truly a can’t buy experience. Congratulations Peter on staying in the list as the top 50 restaurants and I definitely send my best wishes to him and the restaurants. Happy Cooking Chef!
Peter Gilmore’s cookbook QUAY will be out in bookstores in October, keep an eye on the book as I think it would be an incredible one.
Level 3, Overseas Passenger Terminal
Circular Quay West, The Rocks, Sydney
New South Wales
(02) 9251 5600
Quay Youtube Page : http://www.youtube.com/user/QuaySydney
27th best restaurant in the world 2010 – San Pallegrino
Best Restaurant in Australasia 2010 – San Pallegrino
46th best restaurant in the world 2009 – San Pallegrino
Restaurant of the year 2009/2010 – Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide
Restaurant of the year 2009/2010 – Australia Gourmet Traveller Awards
Restaurant of the year 2008 – Restaurant and Catering Awards NSW/National
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