Chef cooks up success with words

Shaun Gillham

IT’S a case of from Graaff-Reinet to Beijing for Veld to Fork, a cookbook by chef Gordon Wright which has been nominated for the Gourmand World Cookbooks Awards. The winners will be announced in China’s capital in May.

A stunned Wright, 41, who runs Gordon’s Restaurant from Andries Stockenström Guesthouse in Graaff-Reinet, which he owns and manages with his wife Rose, 40, said the nomination had taken him completely by surprise.

“This is like the food Oscars. It is absolutely amazing to have been nominated, particularly since the book was only released in September [last year],” said first-time cookbook author Wright, who has never received formal chef’s training.

Wright was notified on December 19 that his book had won the South African leg of the Best Chef Book category of the awards. His entry will now compete against entries in the same category as books from other countries. The results will be announced between May 19 and 22 at the annual awards event which will be held at the Beijing Cookbook Fair. “I am delighted. It’s my book, but many people, including Rose, photographer Sean Kalitz and half the Karoo were all involved and played very valuable roles in seeing it was eventually published.

“So it was certainly a collaborative effort and I was fortunate to have an excellent editorial team,” Wright said.

He said that he had not even been aware that the book had been entered by his publisher.

Describing the book, which is doing very well on the South African market, Wright said that it had taken about two years to complete and that it comprised “our story of life in the Karoo”.

“It is also largely based on the slow-food principle. This springs out of a movement started in the 80s and which essentially counteracts the fast-food culture.

“My restaurant is operated on this principle and it involves the idea of making good, quality food well, slowly and then enjoying it slowly and through socialising with family and friends. It is about preserving a good, family orientated eating culture,” he explained.

He believes his establishment is the first in the country to operate on the concept.

“Having started in Italy amid a boom of fast-food establishments threatening the traditional Italian eating culture in Rome, this concept is now spreading rapidly around South Africa.

“There are already slow-food movements in 187 countries around the world. Locally, this principle means that we support and therefore assist our local community as far as acquiring produce goes and we also known the source of all the produce we use,” he said.

Wright, a former investment banker who is self-taught as a chef, said he was considering attending the awards in Beijing and that there was certainly another book in the pipeline.

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