The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
In December of 1979 in a small village in the coal mining area of Barnsley South Yorkshire England the worlds best looking chef was born, it was here in Silkstone where he was schooled at an early age picking up numerous academic and sporting awards until he went to Penistone grammar school from year 7-11 where it all went down hill. It was a school on the border of the peak district, half farming half industrial where the “Lad” came about.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
– From the age of 6 till about 15 all I wanted to do was play professional football for my home town of Barnsley & England. I had a good go playing for Barnsley junior, represented my county for South Yorkshire and the football school of excellence but unfortunately wasn’t good enough to make it to the top.
– After that I wanted to be a landlord of a pub. From 12 my father lived in a pub and I wanted to be the youngest landlord around, unfortunately at 16 not old enough to drink yet let alone run and serve alcohol I found myself at catering college where after 6 months I moved to London to work in the Kitchen
– At thirty all I wanted to be was successful in hospitality and personal life and that is still today
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I never wanted kids, now I have 2 and it’s the best belief I changed ever
4. What were three big events in your life or the world around you that had a great effect on you and influenced your cooking?
– In 1996 my first head chef Michael Taylor showed me how wonderful, crazy and how to work hard as a young pup in a busy and crazy kitchen, he showed me the start of the road and taught me that I was the one who built the road and followed my dreams
– In 2005 Andrew McConnell the celebrated Australian chef taught me to take my blinkers off and see all the wonderful world and cultures behind food and to explore all the opportunities and thoughts I had.
– In 2009 My Partner Sharlee, said a very honest and simple phrase “just cook the food YOU love to eat”, it hit me like a banjo to the back of the head. If I stand by my beliefs of eating food that is truly seasonal; work directly with amazing farmers and producers; have an interest in ethical food and where it all comes from and just to try to cook food simply for the best flavour and taste then others would hopefully enjoy it too. I think it has worked.
5. What are some of the dishes you wouldn’t eat as a child that you love now?
I hated, I mean bloody hated, capsicums, zucchini and eggplant. That said I still hate raw green capsicum, it’s just wrong town.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
My first book was a thought process of my past and eating seasonally. I now look at what vegetables and fruit are growing around me to tell me wherever I am in the world what season we are in. This is what we should be eating now and therefore the freshest and tastiest.
My New book, Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads, is about my love affair with salads and trying to let the readers know that salads aren’t just about leaves and a dressing, they can be so much more. The front cover is also so important to me, it’s a depiction of my grandfather who was always simply dressed but from a time past – he wore a three piece suit with a handkerchief and a flower in the lapel, always a white rose for Yorkshire or a passionfruit flower he would specially grow in his green house just to wear.
The idea of being ‘simply dressed’ relates to this idea but also relates to salads, if something is over dressed it’s drenched and too much, if under dressed it needs a little more to make it perfectly, simply dressed!
7. If you had to create one dish to show off your repertoire, what would it be?
In the summer section of Simply Dressed it would be the salad of watermelon, prawn vinaigrette and feta and from the autumn section the salad of crab, samphire and mustard on toast. Simple, honest and delicious.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
Without sounding soft my mum. She has dedicated her whole life to helping family, friends and others, her unselfishness is mesmerising. I hope I can be as many things to her as she was to me when I was a child.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’m a true believer that goals (or dreams as I like to call them) should consistently keep evolving throughout our life. My current dream is to set up a store that within it has a restaurant that showcases all the best things that are Australian and that we become proud of the food scene and produce we have here.
10. What advice do you give aspiring chefs?
Don’t chase money, chase your dreams, work hard and read as many things about food and how it is produced and the latter will eventually come
Matt, thank you for playing.
by Matt Wilkinson
Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads is the latest offering from the British-born chef and author who came to prominence after the success of his first book, Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables.
Matt Wilkinson’s passion is based on sourcing the very best seasonal and local produce to make simple dishes that allow the flavours of fine ingredients to shine through. His ethos is simple: food in season tastes the best, especially when it’s grown in tune with nature.
This book follows the seasons and is filled with 52 stunning salad recipes that are both meals in themselves or fantastic accompaniments that can be shared as part of a main meal.
The design is intricate, melding soft colours and beautiful produce photography with botanic-style illustrations from famed Melbourne artist, Miso, and a strong typographic aesthetic.
Try a salad of zucchini flowers, ribbons and grilled zucchini with quinoa and smoked tomato dressing or bio-dynamic rice, dried sweet fruits, feta, nuts and seeds. For something simple think Summer leaves, lime salt and a mint vinaigrette or Beans with smoked almonds and a honey dressing. Delve into something more hearty such as Spanner crab and bottarga scattered through mustard and spinach leaves.
Recipes for salad dressings are ingeniously presented as an illustrative ‘family tree’ that match different flavour ‘families’ with ingredients. In addition, there is a section for homemade cordials and drinks to help quench a thirst whatever the season. With whimsical stories and tips for picking the best ingredients, as well as great design, Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads is a fine, inspiring and complementary addition for any cooking enthusiast.
About the Author
Hailing from South Yorkshire, chef Matt Wilkinson now calls Melbourne home. His interests revolve around growing the best tasting food and appreciating the importance of food to communities, in partnership with farmers and food producers. With his business partner Ben Foster, Matt runs the much-loved East Brunswick eating and drinking establishment, Pope Joan – unique caf by day, and casual neighbourhood eatery by night, replete with a kitchen garden, and very own produce store -Hams and Bacon. Matt is a proud ambassador of the work of the Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association, is a partner with boutique casual food eatery Spudbar – enabling his input at the table serving ‘slow food – fast’ – and author of Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables.