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Food Philosophy: Peter Jackson

Executive Chef of Mexico, Peter Jackson, talks lessons learned, future predictions and food idols.

Food Philosophy: Peter Jackson

Who did you learn about cooking from, and what was the most useful thing they taught you?

I know I was always interested in food from a young age, I grew up with great cooks, mum, dad, aunties, uncles and extended familia, we would put hungi’s down and have good ol kiwi BBQ’s with family and friends; I started working in a kitchen around the age of 15 years old washing dishes in a Queenstown restaurant, working with chefs who were trained in hotels, they were pretty full on and passionate I learnt a lot and fast, I had the utmost respect for these guys, they were true soldiers of what we know now as “Chef!”. It was the most enjoyable time learning to cook, there was no mincing of words, if you made good food, was quick in service with high excellence and you cleaned your section to high quality you were praised, but in their same breathe of praise, if you didn’t, they wouldn’t hold back and tell you how it was and how it should be… I was always saying “Yes Chef!” and I meant it!

I would have to say the most useful bit of advice all the Chefs I trained under gave me was to work hard for you and your fellow chef, the guy standing next to you doing the hard yards, the soldier working the hours with you, always respect food, respect the kitchen because it is the mother of all beasts and can destroy you if you don’t respect it.

Still to this day I find myself saying and doing what they taught me, I often have a little chuckle thinking back to those days… Wouldn’t change a thing, the training I received early in my career made me the chef I am today, happy, humble & passionate for food and my fellow chef.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

This is a very cool question… I always wanted to be a rally driver ha ha …, but if I wasn’t a chef I would like to be a builder or architect, something with a creative outlet! I have never wanted to be a desk jockey or a day walker, no disrespect to these guys, they do what they do and they chose to do this … but I always want to be on the move, doing stuff, creating.

I have so many ideas all the time, a lot of pipe dreams… although in saying this when you create you need to document, so I have somewhat become a desk jockey, but only because I have to.

How do you get your inspiration?

Honestly, I just talk to people, chefs, I research, I think up crazy food combinations and also go back to the classics, the basics of cooking, traditional food. Then just recreate and add textures and flavours… The good thing about food is when you understand combinations of flavours and what food can go with, you can experiment. I would have to say honestly that some of my experiments have been disasters, but at the same time these disasters have become some of my greatest achievements! But if I never tried I would never know.

Who in the food world do you most admire?

There are a lot of cool chef’s out there and a lot of cool foodies who just get on and do what they do. I don’t follow any particular chef, I watch a bit of food TV every so often, but I admire the chefs who I trained under, they are the soldiers who taught me right from wrong and also gave me the green light to experiment. The moto was always, if you make a mistake just think back on how you made that mistake and don’t do it again, pretty simple really.

Favourite foods to cook with?

I really like cooking with secondary cuts, briskets, shoulders, jowl, braising meats where you can see results, it comes back to respecting food, all food has its purpose, and you just need to find the right way to cook it. I am a fan of Italian cooking, so making pasta is a go to for me…

Are there any foods you just don’t like?

Again, all food has its place, all food needs to be respected… if you asked me this question 20 years ago it would have been a more personal answer and straight up I would have said brussel sprouts,  however, now that I have cooked with all different types of food out there and yet there, I find myself branching out and using a wider variety of food.”

What is going to be the next big thing in the food world?

I really don’t know… There are so many talented chef’s out there that it could really be anything, but it will be cool! It is really awesome to see different styles and cuisines being brought back to life.

Do you have any kitchen disaster stories?

Every chef has a kitchen disaster story and possibly more than one, they would be lying if they said that they didn’t!

I was 17 Years old and I was on the grill section, cooking steaks, pans and running the pass. I was pretty green but I was bloody good, well so I thought. The place was pumping dockets doubling up and we were cruising.

My chef next to me said “Bro! Your grill looks pretty hot, there is a wee fire in the drip tray” I was like, shit let’s try put it out, so we did, and then 30 minutes later whoosh! The whole back end of the grill went up, to cut a very long story short… we put it out with a fire extinguisher, it destroyed about 10 dockets worth of food, and we were all destroyed and had to close the kitchen.

After the smoke had cleared and we did some investigations we realised that there was no grease absorber in the tray… Never forgot that one again.”

Best piece of advice you would give a home enthusiast?

Don’t give up, if at first you don’t succeed, then try again! The more you make recipes, the more you learn. Read the recipe in full and get all of your ingredients; Mis en place, equipment ready to go before you begin.

Place you like to eat on days off?

I love a good home cooked meal, hanging with my family, having a glass of wine and enjoying the moment, just hanging out! But if I go out it will be Italian, Asian cuisine. Oh and of course Mexico!

Meet Peter Jackson at the MiNDFOOD Festive Hour Tour and hear more about his food philosophy. Click here for tickets.

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