Nature. Texture. Intensity. Purity.
A BEHIND THE SCENES PEEK INTO THE MAKING OF ORGANUM
Now that Organum is about to launch - meaning there's been a gap in time large enough for me to step back and look at this incredible project from a distance - it has reminded me once again what a wonderful experience and great honour it has been, and will always be, to work with talented individuals who inspire and challenge you to grow as a creative.
Working closely with chef Peter Gilmore over the last 5 or 6 years on both Quay books has cemented our friendship and my respect for him as a person, a loving husband and father, and an abnormally creative talent. But Peter's curiosity for what makes things tick and subsequent ability to link seemingly random aspects of an idea - gently encouraging them into a harmoniously expressive state - is some kind of freaky.
And I don't mean to gush in a silly I have a 'foodie guru' kinda way - I'm all too aware of the current trend to deify certain food 'personalities'. My life, for good or bad, is fairly food centric and I've spent more than enough time around 'celebrity chef' wankery - which is mostly encouraged by a few irresponsible media types rather than the chefs themselves (although there can be a knock on effect..).
Where I was leading to is this.. sure food is Pete's medium - but one has to wonder - if Peter's mind and intuition were invested in another field what other applications might his talents be suited to? I'm not implying world peace here... but then again - who knows.
Pete possesses a special kind of something which is hard to put a finger on. Mainly because he's quite simply a truly lovely, decent human being who doesn't live to toot his own trumpet. Who also just happens to have an ability to focus, analyse and create in a way most people cannot. He has just enough ego to allow him to absorb some energy from his fans and utilise it in moving forward and enough gratitude to keep him humble, grounded, fair and realistic.
Peter knows what he wants and does whatever it takes to achieve it (as long a it is not to the detriment of others - he's just not that guy) but at the same time is open to adjusting his perspective should new information, concepts or possibilities come his way. He is constantly evolving his information bank and craft -and not necessarily seeking it in the way the rest of us might, rather it seems to find him; often while he meditates on a tiny dew drop balanced on a blossom of an edible flower growing in his impressive home garden - more accurately - a mini food farm. From which I have tasted the buds, leaves and grass of numerous exotic species and even nicked the odd yuzu and Japanese turnip for my own culinary purposes ! Yes, it is pretty fantastic.
It is without a doubt that I have edged my way a little deeper into Peter's world and mind through the process of making Organum. I needed to make sure that together we got down on paper exactly what he wanted to say about every aspect of the contents in a way that the everyday punter would understand. Did we lock horns from time to time? Sure you could call it that I guess - but only in the nicest possible, bendiest-plush-toy kinda way - as you can imagine of someone of Peter's character. We are both stubborn in our own special way, which is often required in our respective lines of work and related responsibilities - but without a doubt there was a healthy give and take from both sides. A good dose of respect and trust goes a long way in this kind of working relationship and we are fortunate to share that.
Regardless, you try being the person to tell one of the world's most highly acclaimed, respected and liked chefs 'no you can't say it like that because it doesn't really make sense....' or 'the marketing team isn't into that idea...' . Of course certain things make sense to Peter in a way that they might not to other people - that's what makes him so brilliant at what he does - but it was my job to make sure that 'the masses' could connect to his thoughts and feelings throughout the text. Peter communicates so sublimely through his cuisine that it sets off a complex range of emotions in most diners - much like a unique artwork or piece of writing might - so there was no pressure at all....
One of the beautiful things about working together with a person you regard highly as a craft person and a human is that it allows you to have a little rethink about your own ideas from time to time and develop your abilities in ways you might never have anticipated. Throughout the process we certainly inspired each other to work in ways differently than we might have if we'd been working on our own. I'm grateful for the opportunity on so many levels.
But Peter isn't the only person I am honoured to have worked with on this title. Peter himself works with a great team at Quay, from his brilliant chefs and front of house lovelies to GM Kylie Ball and owners - The Fink Group. They have all made me feel like family for the entire time I've been lurking around Quay as we pulled these two books together. They know me well enough to know what I look like in the morning when I haven't had enough sleep and how I take my coffee. It often turns up before I've had a chance to think about it. (Thank you Robert x). They'll give me a good strong 'welcome back' hug when they haven't seen me for a week, they know when to feed me something they've been testing in the kitchen that I am gonna LOVE (Sam and Rob I'm looking at you - and the pastry crew!!) and a plate will land in front of me when staff meal is up if I'm STILL hanging (sniffing) around. Occasionally I've been known to accept a glass of champers. Not complaining. The service team also developed a knack for politely-but-urgently tell me to piss off because they really need the green room to set up for a function.. But I would expect no less from the team at Quay. Culture is top down after all.
When it comes to a book project, especially one of this calibre, depth and size, there are a whole lot of behind the scenes people involved at various stages of production who are rarely acknowledged. Having worked for many years on both sides of the fence in book publishing I know it only too well. Thank you in particular to publisher Diana Hill, for asking me to be involved in this project and trusting me to just get on with it. I also want to give a shout out to the various editors on the book - especially the gorgeous Melody Lord who whipped things into shape at the 12th hour and to Christine Osmond for her work on the recipe testing - again, not a job for the average recipe tester ! And she ain't no average anything!
Before I took on this rather enormous and detailed gig I knew I'd be working with a treasured mate -the enormously talented designer Reuben Crossman - who is just as stubborn and anal as me (but in an annoyingly brilliant way). We've worked together on many projects including the first Quay book, Ben Shewry's Origin, most of Frank Camorra and co-writer Richard Cornish's MoVida books, Matthew Evans' Real Food Companion and several of Pete Evans' books to name a few - and he's even designed a couple of my own titles too - Snowflakes and Schnapps and Zenbu Zen - finding food, culture and balance in Kyoto. He cannot help but go above and beyond and speaks a different language to many people, even other creatives - that's why he works so damn well with Chef Gilmore.
Add to this heady cocktail of creative juices - one of the most technically superb photographers I have had the pleasure of working with (he also shot my books Snowflakes and Schnapps and made snowy villages appear in a north shore suburb of Sydney). There was no way on earth I could NOT work on this book. At the end of every recipe shoot day for Organum we'd gather around photographer Brett Stevens' screen at the resulting collection of images and literally go 'wow' - our lower jaws hanging slack. Actually there was sometimes a little bit of sweary excitement.
When working for an extended period (about 18 months) with a bunch of perfectionists with strong ideas you could be forgiven for thinking there might have been regular clashes - but honestly - if anything there was mild frustration from one party or another for mere minutes on the odd day and that's about it!. And what we collectively understand with much experience behind us all - is that it is absolutely part of the process in a collaborative work and what it does do, alongside all the other queries and checks, is help to produce a result much more layered and enigmatic than the sum of its parts - which is what Organum is all about... You'll have to read the book to find out more on that ;).
Even if you don't read it - you simply must fondle its textural cover, sniff its pages and wonder at the amazing imagery. But of course you should do that in the privacy of your own home.
Yesterday the Peter Gilmore App for i-pad went LIVE - and it, like Organum, is a thing of beauty. Yet another layer of the Peter Gilmore and Organum story with stunning food porny video to boot!. A magnificent collaboration between Peter, Reuben, Brett and the exceptional Pollen Digital