Food Vancouver Select Guide: Interview with Graham Kerr: The Galloping Gourmet
This time the Food Vancouver Select Guide was fortunate to have the opportunity to connect with one of the most inspiring culinary talents of our time - the Galloping Gourmet’s Graham Kerr. You will have a chance to meet Graham at The Eat! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival which will run from June 10th to 12th, 2011 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The show will feature food demonstrations, contests, seminars and tons of information for all you foodies!
FV - When did you first feel connected to food and know it was going to be your life's work?
GK - It’s an interesting question. I wish I could say that at the age of 10, as I stood on an orange box in the kitchen in England watching chefs around me work, and as I would chop like mad and smile along, that it was then that I realized this was my calling; but it wasn’t then. It was much later when I was the Chief Catering Officer for the Royal New Zealand Air Force. I was called up by a judge friend one morning who asked me to come by the law courts because he needed me for something. I asked him what it was and his answer was ‘just turn up’. A man by the name of Robert Beasley was in front of the judge and had been arrested for misappropriating cheques. He was a brilliant, brilliant man, and the judge knew it. He asked me to host this man in my home, observe him and teach him about restaurant management and administration! I was quite taken aback but of course agreed to the judge’s request. I cooked for Robert and within the first day or two he asked, ‘is this best you can do?’ I answered ‘it is’ and he followed with ‘then I had better cook!’ After a week or so he allowed me to observe while he worked and it was then that I discovered that I wanted to do what he did and I wanted to know what he knew. He was so very intimate with his food. It was as though he knew from the rice grain’s perspective what it was like to transform from a grain of rice into a pilaf. It was remarkable.
FV - Where did the name Galloping Gourmet originate?
GK - The name came from a book that I co-wrote with wine expert Len Evans. There was an Australian airline called Qantas which had just expanded their routes and flight destinations. In exchange for writing a book of the experience, they offered to fly us around the world for 35 days, stopping whenever and wherever we liked! In the 35 day jaunt, I think we visited something like 117 restaurants (laughs). It was the trip of a lifetime. We ate and drank around the world and we wrote a book called the “Galloping Gourmets”. It was later that I realized that would make a phenomenal title and concept for a TV program!
FV - You have had an exceptional career, what would you say are your top highlights or most memorable experiences?
GK – I will never forget the day we didn’t win the television Emmy award. After the awards dinner I was walking down the street in New York, I was feeling pretty low, and I heard the sound of heels running behind me. I turned around and there was this lady running down the street with the award show program in hand. She was out of breath and said ‘thank goodness I didn’t miss you, can you please sign my program?’ I thought, okay this isn’t so bad. I signed her program - she looked at me, looked at program and said, ‘oh I thought you were David Frost!’. A huge highlight for me was receiving the first Honorary Doctorate in Culinary Nutrition from Johnson & Wales University, one of (if not the) largest culinary training schools in the world. The program consists of 2 years culinary training and 2 years nutrition training. I gave the commencement speech as well and it was a tremendous honour. Students discovered to their joy (and mine) that they could call me Doctor Cul-Nut pronounced “cool nut”. Not a bad new title to replace Galloping Gourmet!
FV - The food industry is changing so rapidly, with food costs soaring, consumption of processed food and an overall disconnect from where our food comes from, what do you think will be the biggest lesson and most important thing for future chefs to consider?
GK - I believe there is a need (and I am doing this myself right now) to look at the way we cook (vegetables) be it the way we steam or roast, and then start all over again. To come from a place where we assume nothing, start from scratch and really come up with the very best way to cook these foods. If we receive beautiful, local and fresh food, we must find the very best way to prepare it. In this way we can set out to “delight and do less harm.”
FV - Let's talk about some fun stuff! What is your favourite comfort food?
GK – I was on Rachael Ray recently and I was asked this question and (discounting fat content of course) I said it would be a deep fried Mars Bar! I went and tried one and it was revolting! So let’s toss that one out. If we’re talking comfort, like I’ve had tough day, it’s raining like crazy, the economy is not doing well, I’m thinking nothing is right in the world…I’m in the company of people I love and there is a food that can really hit that sweet spot where you say ‘it’s not all that bad’ (pauses) I have always loved omelets. Omelets really say something about the people eating them, where they choose which filing they want from a variety of flavours and textures. I invented a sauce I like to call velvet sauce, for omelets. Take a pound of root vegetable, it can be sweet potato or parsnip or your choice, and1 cup of evaporated skim milk. You run them in the blender for 4 minutes and then the proteins of the milk and the cellulose of the plant combine and the texture becomes almost that of an Alfredo Sauce. It’s so smooth and rich, deep and nutty. Pour over the omelet, then add a bit of cheese and parsley on top and pop it under the broiler for a few minutes. (FV - I should add Graham was extremely passionate about this omelet, almost as though he was making it as he spoke!) I’m actually going to make it at Eat! Vancouver and ask the audience how they feel about it. It replaces the high fat rich buttery classic and it’s so simple!
FV - If you could cook for one person in the world who would it be?
GK - Prince Charles.
FV - If you could have one person cook for you who would it be?
GK - Karl Guggenmoss – he is a Bavarian master chef. He has threatened to cook for me a few times but he never has so I think it’s time to make good on his word!
FV - Thirty minutes absolutely flew by and the Galloping Gourmet and I had to conclude our chat (I could have gone on for another hour!). Before taking the time to kindly show interest in me and what I do, he mentioned this…
GK - There is one phrase I would like to emphasize. ‘Delight and do less harm’. I believe in the culinary industry it is our duty to delight and please people but it is also our duty to do less harm to our customers and their environment.
To purchase tickets to see Graham and other presenters please visit the Eat! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival website: www.eat-vancouver.com
To purchase Growing at the Speed of Life please visit the website: www.grahamkerr.com/index.php/store/
Article written by Dana Mahon
Images supplied by: Graham Kerr
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