Masterchef S01 ep4: Neil Perry, Rockpool Restaurant, [Sydney]

Interview with neil Perry

People today actually fullfill their sort of skillless life with food by watching someone else preparing it. It is like you are sitting there and watching this happen and you think 'I am hungry now, I can eat'. You feel like you have done something because you actually participated in a food programme.



KM What is the Rockpool?

Well I think in reality it sort of my home, because I spend an awful amount of time here, I think about it alot, it is really the linch pin tht holds all the activities of my business together.



Both my parents were Australian and I grew up in Sydney. I was born in 1957. My father was so influencial, such an important part of my life and my drive towards food.

KM Why?

Because he was a butcher, because he was fisherman, because he grew his own vegetables in the back yard.

KM Where was this?

Well we lived in Blakehurst, down in Ballface Point, we had enough land..... his vegetable garden was his passion. He used to love....when we would have a barbeque at home dad would bring home a whole rump streak and cut thick slices oof, bbq it beautifully, slice it up, that is why the family ate....

KM And you are not even Greek!

I am not even Greek, no....and things like Choco, passionfruit, tomatoes, eggplants, we dug the spuds out of the back yard. So I had an affinity with produce if you like, I would stand there with him and fillet fish that he caught. We'd go down and go prawning together, we shuck oysters together, so to me food was very natural.



At 25 I decided to start cooking and I went to see a great friend of my Damien Pinuley and I spoke to him and he said, come and work with me for a little while. Then I went to work with Stephanie,

KM You actually worked with Stephanie in Melbourne?

Yeah for 3 months in Melbourne, and then I worked for 3 months with You and Me and Jenny Ferguson who doesn't cook anymore but used to do beautiful things here.


Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

01.54KM What was so interesting about Daniel Pinuley's food ?

Like mine it is very produce driven. Particularly at Claude's I used to love the simplicity of it, you know a fantastic terrine, a beautiful souffle, a beautifully roasted Guinea fowl with a gorgeous silky puree - you know very much the way I love to eat and the way my food goes. Although I have a lot more layers of flavour because of the Asian influence.



I was sort of self taught really, Damien said, go and read everything that Elizabeth David and James Grigson and Escoffier - so I mean so I just sorted started reading everything about food, and everything grows here. Caffier Lime, Leaf lemon grass, galanga, why wouldn't you use that in your cuisine because it grows here just as English spinach, tomatoe and eggplant do so as a chef I just find it crazy that you wouldn't avail yourself to this beautiful produce



I was lucky enough to be in Sydney at a time when you cold probably get away with learning to cook as you go, it is alot more difficult now, and the investment you have got to make to open a restaurant, the things you have to do, it was really easy back then. I mean I was cooking for a year and Leo Scoffield said the kid is a star and that is ridiculous, so you cannot do.... you shouldn't be able to do that, you can't do that now.



I notice that you have other distractions, you do the stuff at Qantas, you do your own Why are you doing all this sort of stuff, do you have to do that today, does...

Well I think you have to, I think it is part of the marketing, it is part of the revenue source for me, I have got some really good consulting jobs, like many of the chefs do in Europe but they pay much better.


Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio


KM what is your process in creating your food?

It is produce driven, so it is what is in the market place, what is seasonal, is what my grower are growing for me, what my fishermen are catching for me,

KM O.K. then what do you do with it?

Then it is doing things that I like doing - so then it is maybe bring it alive with spice, maybe working with beautiful aromatics like lemongrass and galanga. It is maybe working with things that are very simple, like beautiful fresh vegetables flavours, we make some sauces where we juice some fresh vegetables and braise vegetables in those juices. It is just really about layering flavours up so my food is really about texture and flavour, and always about things like aroma is really important. Alot of western cooks don't think like that, but because I cook alot of eastern food, smell is one of the most important things.



Food here has four flavours, it has asian mixes, it has alot of other mixes as well, but the wine also has a lot of sun, it is really fruit driven. There are a lot of beautiful elegant wines, but they still have wonderful robust fruit flavours, that works with our food. Australian Reisling is some of the best wines in the world to drink with some of the spicer , more aromatic dishes that we create in this country

KM YOu can balance that off, it is not a disaster in terms of flavour overload?

No, not at all.


Jewellery Theatre Elements


My food is like very simple looking, but more complex in flavour, so I don't run around and do all the dots, and so all the stripes, and cut thing sinto pretty shapes,

KM Oh oh really?

No, so that is not what I do. I don't have the time, and don't have the inclination. To me food is really natural and organic and that is....I am more concerned about where it came from, and did the farmer look after it, what did it eat, was it humanely killed, was it well fished, or was it beautifully looked after. Are we looking after it once we get it into the restaurant. That whole thing really comes, again, from my father, we cut the fish, we cut up the meat, we picked the vegetables from the ground. So many people, so many chefs around the world, they have no idea where things come from,


Jewellery Theatre Fairytales


KM Why has food become so fashionable?

Well I think it is because people are concerned. There was a time when only the French, the Italian and the Spanish were concerned about food. Everybody in the new word plus England because they have been isolated from food for so long in their life, is trying to catch up with the people who really understand food, a big part of that is the communication level, so print media, television,

KM Yeah, but nobody cooks, that is the irony?

Well they don't, alot of people say that but I think that they do. I think that they do cook, I think people actually have a situation where they fullfill their sort of skillless life with food, with watching someone else preparing it. It is like you are sitting there and watching this happen and you go and I am hungry now, I can eat. You feel like you have done something because you actually participated in a food programme.



So this business has everything in it, and that is one of the great things about it. When you get a complaint letter, seriously it is like someone tearing your heart out, and then really lovely people write you made our year, our life, our whatever, and you walk around and everyone is so happy and that is what we are here for.


OFFICIAL WEBSITE:Neil Perry, Rockpool Restaurant, [Sydney]