Why did I choose the chef’s life?
This is the question that curious onlookers ask me with gusto when they hear about the long, hard hours and miniscule pay. Some chefs say that cooking seethes through their veins, a passion passed on in childhood and set to dominate their life. For me, it was not quite like this … my early years were spent diligently packing preserving jars with apricots, squeezing muslin bags full of blackcurrants, ready to be made into this year’s batch of cordial or fizz. We’d scour the neighbours’ yards for fruit that we could trade or barter, feeding our insatiable bottling addiction.
But this early fruit-bottling obsession is not why I became a chef. As I got older, I found more foods to obsess over. Fortunately for me, cooking is a broad trade, so there is plenty to get obsessed about.
I love the drama of a commercial kitchen, full of buccaneers and pirates doing battle with waiters and waitresses whilst plating beautiful, delicious morsels, prizing gold coins from the patrons’ pockets. It’s a place where anyone can fit in if you learn to do your job well. Do the job and you will be embraced, no matter what your creed.
I love the pace – whether it be a long, unraveling mise en place list, or a board full of checks. There is electricity in the air and the energy is truly palpable.
I love the smell of food – my life would be so much less vivid without it. Pastries gently feuilletting in the oven and meat wafting in the pan; the summer smell of a fridge full of tomatoes or the delightful musty scent of a quince that tells you autumn is here.
I love the feel of food – cooking is tactile, a sensory overload. Whisking whites, standing ready to pour in the steaming hot sugar to pull together the meringue into a homogeneous mass. For some chefs, cooking is an exact science and whilst I agree there’s chemistry involved, I prefer to cook organically, embrace an inexact approach and rely upon instinct and practice to guide me.
I love the kit – last but not least, I must confess, it’s the toys. It starts small with fancy knives and water stones and moves on to thermal circulators and Paco jets and lately liquid nitrogen, followed by vintage ice cream trucks and delivery vehicles. It’s pretty awesome.
It’s true to say that in the beginning I started to cook because it was a job and it was familiar. But now it’s so much more. I am not just a chef but also a mad man who gets to live food fantasies every day.
by Alistair Wise & Teena Kearney-Wise
Tumble down the rabbit hole and into the wild and whimsical world of Fleur Wood, one of Australia’s leading fashion designers and an enthusiastic home cook.
Discover what inspires, motivates and sustains her, from flower-scented baths and tisanes to old-fashioned portraits, love-heart lockets and food with soul. Fleur shares her knowledge and passion for all things vintage and offers a window into the creative processes that drive her covetable collections.
Indulge your senses with fabulous fashion, cutting-edge style and plenty of mouth-watering recipes in this visual feast from the immensely creative and talented Fleur Wood.