The author of A Guide to Everyday Cooking talks about his latest cookbook, how fewer people are learning to cook from their parents, the proliferation of lifestyle programs, how he creates recipes, on using classic recipes, the photography sessions, kitchen wisdom, obtaining quality produce, organics, his favourite cookbook of all time, and his secret desire to write a culinary fiction.
Magdalena Ball: You’ve written 19 cookbooks. Why did you feel another one was necessary?
Gabriel Gate: All my cookbooks are different. This one is a guide to everyday cooking. The previous book aimed to teach kids to cook and the one before that was ‘The Chocolate Lovers; before that there was ‘Indulgences’, a book
for special occasions. ‘A Guide to Everyday Cooking’ is a complete book for the cook rather than just a recipe book.
Magdalena: Do you feel that many people today are missing the kinds of basic cooking skills handed down by parents in years gone by? Why do you think this is?
Gabriel: Fewer people learn to cook from their parents these days because parents and kids are busier. Many parents are not patient enough, some are worried about the mess children may make and others say cooking is too dangerous for kids. It’s a great pity.
Magdalena: And yet there is a huge demand for lifestyle/cooking programs on television, books, and classes. Do you think that this gap in cooking skills has become a kind of hunger (both literally and figuratively)?
Gabriel: Most people watch lifestyle/cooking programs primarily for entertainment in the same way they watch a football match. Watching may stimulate some viewers to go into action, but most don’t.
Magdalena: How did you choose your recipes? Were they ones you had already invented, did you invent them for this book, or did you stick primarily to the classics?
Gabriel: The majority of recipes were created or adapted specifically for this book. I am pretty methodical. Some recipes may illustrate a technique, like pan-frying or roasting, a particular cut, such as chicken drumsticks or fillets, the use of a herb or spice or maybe a particular cuisine, say Indian or Italian. Within a chapter I try to offer as much variety as possible.
Magdalena: Obviously some of the recipes are classic ones like pumpkin soup, apple pie, nasi goreng or vegetable lasagne. Are there copyright issues with recipes, or are the basic/classic ones in the public domain and therefore available for publishing?
Gabriel: When I publish a basic or classic recipe I still write it in my own words and style and my interpretation is different from other cooks. There would be a copyright issue if I copied recipes from other publications, but I don’t do that.
Magdalena: Do you participate in the photography sessions?
Gabriel: I prepared the food for all the dishes photographed in the book., I also took most of the market and food (not the prepared dishes) photographs myself during my visits to markets all around the world.
Magdalena: Where did all of the kitchen wisdom and information come from – did you work straight from your own pre-existing knowledge or did you do research, involve experts, etc?
Gabriel: I have been a professional chef for 32 years, having completed my chef’s apprenticeship in France and worked in several of France’s top restaurants, and have learned from practising and working with others. I have taught cooking for 25 years and I am very curious and ask lots of questions of other people. For this book, I interviewed a professor of dentistry, several dieticians, many cookery teachers, many home cooks, greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers and more. My aim was to write a complete book.
Magdalena: At the front of the book you have information on making best use of the butcher, the greengrocer, the fishmonger, etc. All of your cookbooks emphasise the importance of quality ingredients. Is it harder or easier to find good quality produce these days?
Gabriel: To obtain a variety of quality produce, you need to be ready to travel a little, e.g. to visit markets or find a good fishmonger. This is not possible for everybody. Quality and variety have improved and are easier to find than in the past.
Magdalena: What about organic? Do you feel that it is important to obtain foods that haven’t been chemically treated?
Gabriel: Yes, it would be great for everyone to obtain foods that haven’t been chemically treated but in reality it’s not possible at this stage for the
Magdalena: Do you have a favourite classic cookbook of all time?
Gabriel: My favourite classic cookbook is the Larousse Gastronomique – a huge book with information on food, wine, history, chefs and recipes.
Magdalena: Have you ever thought about doing some other types of writing (eg making a crossover to culinary adventure (and fiction) like Anthony Bourdain or generally food writing like Ruth Reichl or MFK Fisher?
Gabriel: Yes, but the Australian market is too small for this kind of publishing. The books you mention were published overseas. I’ve written several books that I believe are a little more special, such as “How to Teach Kids to Cook’, and have contributed to a couple of children’s books entitled
‘Anyone Can Cook’ and ‘The Chocolate Lovers’, both of which were written by Joan van Loon and beautifully illustrated by Chantal Stewart, with recipes by myself. In those books we have tried to enable children to discover the joys of cooking.