Monday, October 29, 2012

This year's most beautiful NZ book? Celebrated chef’s food sings ‘Central’ in all its majestic alpine glory

The Taste of Central Otago
Pete Gawron
Godwit - Hardcover RRP: $70
Note publication date - Next Friday, 2 November 2012

Pete Gawron is definitely one of our great enthusiasts, living life to the max in the adorable and quant little historic settlement of Arrowtown, the jewel in Central Otago’s crown.His love of and deep attachment to the region infuses everything he does, whether it’s in the restaurant kitchen serving up his signature dishes, pulling up a chair to chew the fat with out-of-towners, calling on loyal local providores, foraging while out on a run, or gathering together recipes for a cookbook which he knows will end up in kitchens both near and in far-flung homes all over.

Following on from his popular 2007 cookbook, Saffron: Food from the Central Otago Heartland, Pete’s back with another stunning salute to everything that makes his heart skip a beat when he thinks of the region and its surrounding environs — and the warm and generous community that inhabits it.
His new cookbook, The Taste of Central Otago, shows an array of food that dazzles on the plate and awakens the senses. It simply sings Central in all its majestic glory and is sure to tug at the heart strings of anyone who loves this very special place.

Pete shows how he transforms local produce (often foraging himself for fungi, fruit, berries and more) into utterly delicious, artfully presented dishes.
With over 75 recipes and magical images by Aaron McLean, this is a book to treasure, and a great celebration of this wonderful part of New Zealand.
The recipes are interspersed with stunning pictures of blossom, stone cottages and dramatic gorge views, trees groaning with summer fruit, sweeping scorched tussock landscape or a snowy winter wonderland. It’s hard to look at any dish that’s comes out of the Saffron kitchen without having all of this in mind.

Pete is naturally curious about everything especially when it comes to the cuisine of other cultures. An inveterate traveller, a lifetime of culinary adventures also informs his menus. He travelled widely through Asia in his formative years and he sets aside time each year to head off and work in top restaurants around the globe, absorbing everything he can from some of the world’s very best chefs, returning to Arrowtown with fresh inspiration that’s reflected in his menu.

“Cuisine has always been a window into the different cultures of the world. It says so much about the people of a land — it talks about their history, their spice routes drawing a direct line back to their own ancestry. It’s hugely interesting bringing this inspiration back to Arrowtown and seeing how it can fit into what I do here,” says Pete. “Making all of those different influences sit on the menu harmoniously is the challenge.”

In 2007, he spent a week at a prestigious cooking school in Szechuan province, China, which rarely opens its doors to Westerners. Most recently Pete worked in one of Copenhagen’s top restaurants and, with Central sharing a similar winter climate with the Nordic countries, he could immediately see parallels: both embrace the seasons and utilise foods from the region. There’s definitely an alpine purity and freshness about Pete’s food and its exquisite presentation.

It was almost 25 years ago now that the then Adelaide chef, his wife Mel and their two young daughters visited Queenstown on a skiing holiday. As it has one so many, Central Otago cast her spell. They decided they would eventually make Arrowtown their home. Today, Pete and Mel consider themselves locals and with their charming bar, The Blue Door ,and their pizza joint, Pesto, they have built a real food empire in Arrowtown over the last 13 years.

Pete recalls that when he and his family first arrived in Arrowtown 13 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see musterers riding their horses down the main street. Although there’s too much traffic these days for horses to amble on through, Pete loves the fact that despite the constant and ever-growing throng of visitors all-year-round, the community has deftly managed to ensure their beloved Arrowtown maintains its charm, unique heritage and unspoiled character.

The Taste of Central Otago is Pete’s gift back to the region. And what a beautiful gift it is. Perhaps the most beautiful NZ title I have seen this year. I'll post a small selection of Aaron McLean's glorious photographs below which will give you and idea of why I am so smitten by this one.

Note publication date -  Friday, 2 November 2012

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