by Neil Perry Posted on 03:47PM, 27 August 2010 Be the first to comment
I love being Australian as, quite frankly, I couldn’t be who I am if I was born in any other country.
My food, my cooking style and the way I think is born from the wonderful multiculturism that has engulfed this country in my time on earth; a boy born in the Southern suburbs of Sydney in 1957, a time when we were not famous for our food, grown or cooked.
I could never have imagined the impact my father, a simple butcher, would have on me in later life. He really showed me things and allowed me to be exposed to the food and cultures that have shaped my cooking.
I never realised when he was taking me down to Chinatown at 6 years of age that I would fall in love with the cuisine, history and people of China. I could never have known that Ken, Jensen and Robert, who were Chinese waiters and restaurateurs at the time, would expose me to food that was so different from the normal Chinese food available at restaurants in the early sixties. I loved the fact that my father would pick up people like this, interested in food and make them friends.
I couldn’t know that going to work with him and meeting Greeks, Italians, Maltese and Spaniards working on the butcher shop boning room floor would lead to me eating breakfast and lunch with them…salami sandwiches, braises and pasta dishes, fried eggplant and roasted peppers were all part of my childhood.
Dad taught me to fish and appreciate freshness, he taught me to pull carrots from the ground and pick tomatoes sun kissed off the vine. It was the very basis of what my cuisine is now: the ingredient is king.
I have worked beside great Australians like Damien Pignolet, Stephanie Alexander and Gay Bilson. How, in any other country, could I possibly have met David Thompson, an Australian who fell in love with Thailand and who came back to Australia to teach a lot of chefs and food writers what great Thai food really was and is today.
I learnt to cook Vietnamese by travelling to Cabramatta and tasting delicious pho and grilled chicken.
I have been influenced by wonderful Italian chefs - made gnocchi with Steve Manfredi and his mother Franka.
I have seen Yoshi cut raw fish with such precision and skill that it sings as I place it in my mouth.
This wonderful country with it’s amazing produce and, importantly, great people who come from all walks and places in life, come together under the Australian sun to become one. We are all Australian. I thank this wonderful place and all it’s people for making me who I am today.
'Neil Perry is a prominent Australian chef, restaurateur, author and television presenter. Perry co-owns and is executive chef of a number of critically acclaimed restaurants in Australia. In Sydney his current stable consists of three restaurants located in the city's CBD: his flagship fine-diner Rockpool, modern Chinese restaurant Spice Temple, and factory-job steakhouse Rockpool Bar & Grill.