I had the pleasure of interviewing Bruce Palling while he was on holiday in the Cotswolds. Bruce is originally from Australia and I loved his passion when talking about food. Bruce blogs over at Gastroenphile and he has an amazing way with words!
Who has been the most influential person in your life?
Laurie Turner, a bohemian artist I met in Australia as a teenager, who introduced me to literature – and avocados!
What started you on the path of cooking?
While I was a young reporter in Melbourne, Mietta O’Donnell, a fellow female journalist introduced me to eating out. She was of Italian descent and went on to establish several successful restaurants. Unfortunately she was killed in a car crash 11 years ago.
Which three ingredients could you not live without?
Tomatoes, a perfect steak and vintage Burgundy – I could never tire of them
Which of your kitchen tools would you take with you anywhere and everywhere?
As long as there are no reasons for me not to, I would travel everywhere with an oyster shucker as it is a universal tool. I can use it to clear out the used coffee grains from the espresso machine as well as open wooden cases of wine. I also have an elegant Italian folding knife that I take with me, as well as a corkscrew
Do you have any pet peeves in the kitchen?
It would have to be an extractor not working properly which means the fire alarm keeps going off
Which meal is your all time favourite?
The one I had at a one star Michelin Restaurant in Paris – La Bourgogne. It is a bourgeois French restaurant and I had a very good quality Dutch veal liver to eat with a bottle of 1971 Chambolle-Musigny. What was amazing was the way the wine cleared my palate after every mouthful. The food and wine were completely complementary. This is impossible with molecular gastronomy, which is why I try to avoid it.
Which restaurant would you visit over and over again?
The Ledbury. This 2 star Michelin restaurant is in Notting Hill and is run by Brett Graham, a young Australian chef. He has been there since 2005 and presents stunning cuisine that is sophisticated, with a subtle level of balance. I go there once every two months. There are always new dishes to try and they are like a symphony, a perfect harmony of composed work.
If you could only have one recipe book, which one would it be?
Appetite by Nigel Slater. It was published 8 years ago and is a revelation. Each recipe has a list of alternatives and the recipe book inspires you to understand that there is no such thing as a perfect recipe. Nothing can be replicated perfectly every time and this is the experience of the spirit and soul of cooking. The recipe book helps build up your self confidence and encourages you to use what is available or what you feel like using.
If you could work alongside one chef for a day who would that be?
Brett Graham of The Ledbury. I recently had a meal there that lasted 5 hours, and after service which was after midnight I went to the kitchen and he was bursting with energy. He showed me some bantams that he had reared from eggs. Right there and then he plucked and gutted one for me to try. It is his enthusiasm, I most admire. He always keeps his spirits up and he is so passionate.
Which ingredient will you not eat or cook with?
Goats milk curd. It tastes disgusting with a rancid whiff! Both my wife and I find it revolting. I do however adore stinky foods like durian, epoisses and andouillettes
What is on top of your bucket list?
I would love to explore Japanese cuisine. I was in Japan 32 years ago and so there is a huge gap in my knowledge when it comes to Japanese food. Together with the Nordic people, the Japanese are pursuing a level of excellence with their own ingredients which I admire.
What is your food philosophy?
I don’t have one, though ultimately it should taste good! I don’t want to impose myself on others, though I admire Rene Redzepi of Noma’s mantra of time and place. Ultimately, people must discover what works for them.
Any parting words for the readers?
Bruce did not have any parting words, but as he is due to visit South Africa soon to help Abigail Donnelly judge the Eat Out Best Restaurant award, he would love recommendations for the best pinot producer in South Africa.