Simon Gault: On Modern Classics
Simon Gault doesn’t care if you get his books dirty. In fact, he encourages it. You can even write all over them. All he cares about is that you can make a bloody good lasagne when the occasion calls for it.
His latest book, “Modern Classics” is full of, well, classics but with the Simon Gault 5% magic, obviously. Starting with a list of the classic dishes ‘borrowed’ from all over the world, Simon Gault tackled each one, taking the original and giving people something to talk about.
Hemmingway’s adage “write drunk”, edit sober isn’t a sensible way forward when writing a cookbook. Simon assures us recipe writing requires being sober for both stages, probably for the best given the hazards your everyday kitchen hold at the least drunk of times. His process then? Well he cooks. Weighs. Writes it down (sometimes on your standard paper other times goes high tech on the iPad, whichever is closest). If its not perfect, its tweaked and cooked again.
Simon is known as an master of many cuisines, whether its perfect steak and mac/cheese fritters at Jervois Steak House or fancy food with a bit of culinary trickery thrown in for good measure at Euro, which makes it difficult to pin a style on him. When asked, he concurs he doesn’t fit a particular genre. The rationale behind the seemingly unrelated is that when he cooks at his restaurants its all about the customer. He describes his job as being to understand and create a menu that delivers food his customers want to eat. Its not about him or what he wants you to eat, quite simply put, his style is he cooks for his customers. Hence, his diversity.
When creating the recipes, he also has you in mind, the generous chap. He knows the recipes can’t be daunting, or they will put people off. His priorities - it looks good (getting Kieran Scott there with his camera is always a good start), there is a manageable number of ingredients that are recognisable and easily obtainable. His wife Katrina is an expert recipe tester due to a talent (which lets be honest is often lacked) for following recipes to the letter, so all the draft recipes dreamed up on the Gault family iPad need her seal of approval.
When it is about him, in his home kitchen, he keeps it clean and simple. Whats in the garden becomes his ‘magic box’ of ingredients to create simple seasonal meals.
If this is to become the cooking bible for this generation, a tome with filthy (which means loved) pages handed down, forming the repertoire of each cook who holds it, does he mind if suddenly every contestant on Masterchef is spouting the aforementioned chicken livers as their own secret ingredient to a beautiful bolognase? Thats fine too, we checked. At least you know you will get a good critique from Mr Gault. (You're welcome future contestants - saved you an awkward conversation).
So there you have it. Simon Gault’s express authorisation to get the pages of Modern Classics covered in food and hand scrawled notes. Just don’t let it sit on the coffee table unused.
Images by Meredith Dyer