Some cookbooks will end up dotted with food stains, pages creased or stuck together from being consulted so often. Chef Peter Gilmore’s new cookbook, Organum, is not one of those books. Closer to a prized coffee table tome, it comes in a hard case and is full of incredible photography of the dishes found at his internationally awarded restaurant Quay. Gilmore’s first cookbook, titled Quay, was similarly lush, full of recipes.
Organum refers to the concept behind Gilmore’s cooking: a balance of nature, texture, intensity and purity; each dish he produces must reflect these elements. How does he know when he has achieved it? “It’s an intuitive thing – probably my own personal sensibilities define when the dish is right. Often I’ll have an idea and quite a few different concepts and ingredients going on. It’s not until I take a couple of things away that I’ll be, like, ‘wow’. At other times I struggle to find that one extra ingredient.”
In his second book Gilmore focuses on stories of the producers and growers that supply the restaurant with produce and have been hugely influential on Gilmore’s exceptional cooking. Such a big part of what I do as a chef is working with these guys,.” he says. “Sharing these stories helped me deepen my understanding of the beauty of the produce. Their passion inspires me.” Recipes for dishes such as pasture-raised veal with rendered smoked bone marrow, bitter chocolate black pudding and grey ghost mushrooms; indigenous molluscs with ham hock broth and grass tree; and a delicate dessert of mangosteen, feijoa and coconut are accompanied by photographs by Brett Stevens on pristine white backgrounds, looking almost like paintings. The book was designed by Reuben Crossman.
Being deeply modest, he’s not one to admit to the significant part he’s had in shaping modern Australian cuisine. Instead, Gilmore addresses the difficulty of defining the genre. “At the end of day we’re never going to have a cuisine like French or Italian. Communication and transport has changed what the cuisine is – it’s completely different to 100 years ago when we were isolated and focused on tradition. Modern world cuisine has more to do with the spirit of the food, and not as much the pinning down of certain dishes.”
Organum is available for purchase at Quay or in all good bookstores. Also available is an app for the iPad; an interactive documentary exploring the people, places and produce behind his unique dishes.