Metropol catches up with popular Kiwi chef Simon Gault to discuss his healthy new passion and his go-to comfort meals for winter.
Where did your passion for food come from?
From a young age, my parents both cooked; we always ended up with interesting stuff in our school lunches. They had friends in the hospitality industry, so I got to see into kitchens, which turned me on. Food is inspiring really; I’m like a kid in a candy store and that’s naturally evolved from a young age.
Why do you think the country has connected with you and what you do?
I dislike the word ‘celebrity chef’ intensely. I’m like any another chef out there. I never thought I’d be on TV, had no burning desire to do it. Once you get on the box people see what you’re like, see the real you. Someone said to me once, the most important thing about doing TV is to remember your mates will see it. They know what you’re like, so be yourself. I’m myself on TV; it’s not an acting role. You just do what you do – some people will like it, some people won’t.
Last year was pretty busy for you, with a three-part doco on obesity and a new restaurant Giraffe on Auckland’s Viaduct. What does the next 12 months have in store for you?
I’ve become pretty passionate about the health sector and helping people like me really – people who are overweight and struggling with it. The documentary ‘Why Are We Fat’ helped a lot of people. I get emails from around the world saying it changed their lives. People come up to me in the restaurant in tears saying, ‘you don’t know what you’ve done for me’. That inspires me to help more people. I have the ability to make an impact – we’re the third fattest nation in the world.
What is the winning recipe for a great dining establishment?
Family – that sums it up really. All our people that work in the restaurant are our family. We spend a lot of time there, so it’s about enjoying it, being a family. We employ people who are fun and love what they do. If we can have that family environment, that rubs off on customers; they feel it. Obviously you need the other things – best produce and cooked well – but without family you’ve got nothing.
Heading into winter, what are some of your go-to comfort meals?
It’s pretty hard to beat a casserole in winter – Moroccan lamb casserole or beef casserole; they’re hearty and delicious and will fill you up in winter.
What’s the most fulfilling aspect of what you do?
Spending time with my daughter, nothing beats that