Gourmet Burger Kitchen – a chain of (admittedly upmarket) burger and milkshake joints.
You wouldn't think they had much in commmon, would you? But… you'd be wrong.
In fact, Peter Gordon was approached in 2001 by three fellow New Zealanders and asked to act as executive chef for their new venture, a chain of restaurants that would serve only high-end burgers. He helped them to devise the menu for what was to become the Gourmet Burger Kitchen (or GBK) and continues to oversee the menu. So it should actually not have come as a surprise to learn that Peter was doing a cooking demo and giveaway of his cookbook Fusion at a branch of GBK earlier this summer.
On the evening in question, I joined fellow food bloggers Johanna, Kavey, Rejina and Niamh and a host of other folk at the Spitalfields GBK. While we were mingling, we were served sliders (mini burgers), including a delicious one containing vampire-killing quantities of garlic, and absolutely addictive polenta "chips" (polenta fashioned into chunky chip shapes and fried till crisp and golden). After a quick welcome from Peter himself we were divided into two groups, one of which (ours) tasted some wines from the GBK menu while the other group went to the kitchen to watch a cooking demo.
And soon it was our turn in the kitchen with Peter. In person, he is hugely likeable – witty and amusing yet radiating an aura of calm competence. He also looks more like a pirate than a chef with his unruly hair and earring . But the food we tried definitely confirmed that he is in fact a chef and not the terror of the high seas! The description of the first dish (deep fried eggs with a lime chilli dressing, garam masala and crispy shallots) might have sounded peculiar and fussy (the eggs are fist boiled, then peeled and fried), but the finished product was a little piece of heaven. There were soft and crispy textures; subtle and zingy flavours; and contrasting red and green colours. I was sold.
The other dish that Peter made for us was seared tuna loin on nori sauce with wasabi tobiko (flying fish roe). As anybody who's tried to sear tuna will know, it is so easy to overcook it, so I loved the tip we got from Peter. He just barely seared the loins, then wrapped them in clingwrap and plunged them into ice water to stop the cooking. Genius! The finished product was once again a perfect balance of flavours between the sweet flesh of the fish, the salty nori, and the wasabi tang of the teensy tobiko grains. And who could help but fall in love with the colour of the tobiko?
[The pictures above are in fact photos of the pictures that illustrate the relevant recipes in Peter's book - my pics on the night were shot on the wrong white balance and have a bilious green colour cast ]
After we had devoured the fruits of Peter's labours, it was back to the bar for drinks, goodie bags and, before we left, signed copies of Fusion for everyone. The book is lovely – beautifully photographed and packed with intriguing recipes such as roast butternut squash with poached eggs and chilli butter; miso risotto with chicken livers and plum compote; and orange and pistachio shortbread – a must for any fusion food lover's bookshelf.
Thanks again to Peter and to GBK for a lovely evening! A few more pictures are available in my Flickr album of the evening.