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Q&A with Paul Iskov

Published 6th November, 2018 in Behind the Book
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1. You have been running Fervor pop-up events for a few years now. When and how did the idea for this cookbook come about?

Robert Wood approached me with the idea to collaborate on a cookbook using native Australian ingredients and recipes that people could reproduce at home. I loved the idea and both Robert and Chris had done some great work in the past and I was excited about the opportunity to work with them on this project.

2. It seems that you started working in kitchens (to sustain your love of surfing) and then discovered your love of cooking in the process. When did you realise that cooking was a passion and not just a job?

I think about 4–5 years into my cooking career, whilst working at Restaurant Amuse in Perth was when I really discovered my love for cooking. The attention to detail which went into each dish was inspiring and I learnt so much. Surfing took a back seat and cooking became my passion.

3. What can we expect from the recipes in the cookbook? What do you want readers to get out of it?

The recipes are designed for people to learn and become comfortable with using native Australian ingredients in everyday cooking and to recreate these recipes at home. We want them to not only create great dishes to serve at home, but also create a sense of respect and pride for these ingredients we have been growing in our back yard, learn the stories and understand what an important role these foods and plants play if we want to ensure a healthy and sustainable environment for future generations.

4. The concepts of ‘sustainable cooking’ and ‘foraging’ are philosophies that many chefs and restaurants have embraced. Fervor, of course, focuses on cooking with traditional Australian ingredients. Do you think that this focus on sustainability is just a ‘trend’ or a new way of thinking that all chefs need to embrace?

I think we should all be looking at sustainable practices, but most of all looking after country. The Traditional Owners have done this for thousands of years and we can learn a lot from those practices. In regard to foraging, we like to spend time on country with the Traditional Owners and learn from them as they forage and wild harvest. Collecting Native Australian plants requires a licence and whilst we have a licence and permission to forage it is important for all of us to support Aboriginal communities that are foraging and wild harvesting, so we tend to buy produce from them. We also have our own edible native garden in which we grow herbs and things we can use in everyday cooking. I don’t think this focus on sustainability is just a ‘trend’. I think the world over, there is a growing awareness and necessity to look after our environment and think about the food we put in our bodies and living a simpler, more conscious life in this respect. Many chefs these days are looked up too and I think, have a great platform and a responsibility to set an example of ways we can do this.

5. Can you tell us a little about some of the traditional owners that you have worked with in the making of this cookbook?

Dale Tilbrook has had a huge influence on me and is a great mentor. She has written the welcome to county in the book and helped with advising me on ingredients and stories as well as direction in cultural awareness throughout my journey. We have built friendships we value greatly along the way and there have been many Traditional Owners who have guided us along the way, and who have been a great inspiration to us. Below are only a few of the friends, who, if you ever have the opportunity to cross paths with, count yourself lucky.

Dale Tilbrook – Wardandi Bibbulmun

Charlie Penny – Noongar

Clinton Walker – Ngarluma/Yindjibarndi

Wayne Stevenson – Gumala

Maitland Parker – Banjima

Margie Parker

Neville Poelina – Nyikina

Bruno & Marion – Nyul Nyul

Pat Torres + Aunty Val

Darren Capewell (Capes)

Joey Williams

Kelly Flugge

Maude + Rhys Bonshaw

George Walley

Edie Ulrich

Margerie

6. You’ve stated that talking about the stories and where ingredients are from is a sign of respect. How can we encourage people to think and be more mindful about the ingredients they are consuming?

I encourage people to do cultural tours and spend time on country within their own region or whenever they visit a new region. There is so much for us to learn in listening to these stories, which is an in-depth knowledge and history of the country we live on and how to take care of it from thousands of years of knowledge. Being out on country gives you a deeper understanding and respect for the plants, animals and country that we live on. Also, there needs to be an awareness that some of these stories that sometimes might be shared with you, is not always yours to share, so ensure you have permission to do so if you’d like.

Guests are seated at a long table under the stars, on a saltlake, in the bush or on the beach with their feet in the sand. It is a very casual, but intimate service and having the guests being able to interact with the chefs gives a sense of a relaxed, family meal. We want people to feel comfortable and at home when they dine with us and not only have a dining experience, but hopefully come away from the experience with an appreciation, respect and longing to know and grow more of these amazing ingredients.

Paul Iskov is one of Australia’s leading native food chefs. He has experience working in the world’s best restaurants from Coi in San Francisco to DOM in Rio de Janeiro to Noma in Copenhagen. Upon returning to Australia, Paul established his roving dining restaurant, Fervor, which travels to natural settings and uses local, seasonal and foraged ingredients. He has appeared on a number of television shows in Australia and America, and is a winner of the WA Good Food Guide Industry Leadership Award. This is his first cookbook. 

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