Picking pickled peppers and Peter Goffe-Wood’s brain


As an acclaimed restaurateur, author, food critic, TV and stage personality, not to mention a celebrity judge for MasterChef SA and the Diners Club 50 Best Restaurants in the World, it's clear that a chef's toque blanche is just one of the many hats that Peter Goffe-Wood wears.

Known for his quick sense of humour and down-to-earth gusto for good food, the talented Peter Goffe-Wood has successfully forayed into many fields. This September, he's presenting a special Braai Master Class at the Discovery Vitality HealthyFood Studio. From childhood aversions to food-lover fantasies, we took the opportunity to learn more about him.

HealthyFood Studio: You must have demonstrated loads of recipes in your lifetime. Is cooking for an audience different to cooking for yourself?

Peter Goffe-Wood: I prefer approachable and instructive things in demonstrations, not flashy restaurant food. I want people who watch to think, "I could make that!" And it's the same when I cook for people at home. There's no razzmatazz, it's not elaborate. Come to my house for dinner and you’ll get big bowls and platters bunged on a table so everyone can get stuck in and help themselves.

HFS: In a recent article, you lauded the rising status of vegetables from supporting side-dishes to kitchen superstars. But you also confessed that, growing up, you'd sooner have eaten your own hand than let a raw tomato pass your lips. What changed?

Peter: My early aversion to vegetables wasn't because I hated them, I just didn't like the idea of them, and so I never tried them. You couldn't get me to eat cauliflower for love or money. As a young adult, I started trying things that I hadn't before, which got me thinking, "Wow! This is not so bad!" Now cauliflower is one of my favourite vegetables of all time.

HFS: You weren't an exception. The 2016 HAKSA Report states that most South African children eat less than one portion of fruit or vegetables a day, and that one in four pre-schoolers is overweight or obese.

Peter: That's frightening. And the kinds of things we eat, the refined sugars... I mean, when did cereal become a nutritious breakfast? People feel like bad parents if they don’t give their kids cereal. But that's letting a company's marketing tell you what to eat, instead of reality. And we have an obesity epidemic as a result of it.

HFS: You've said that "obesity has become the new urban malnutrition." How so?

Peter: These days there's a lot of obesity in inner cities, where people don't have access to fresh food or it's just easier to get processed or fast food instead of simple, old-fashioned home cooking. But they're also malnourished, so obese people are often nutritionally starving. That's where the problem is: we’ve lost our connection with food.

HFS: So how do we counter that, and rekindle a 'garden-to-table' approach?

Peter: Just eat food that you've cooked yourself. That's the secret to it. Sometimes people think healthy food is the reserve of the wealthy, but don't be thrown by the word 'healthy'. It doesn't have to be fancy; you don't have to buy free-range or have to buy organic. Just buy fresh vegetables and cook from scratch. If you do that, you're less likely to eat readymade stuff that's laden with sugar or salt.

HFS: Many people believe that takes too long.

Peter: Does it really, though? I mean, chopping up some vegetables for a stir-fry with chicken or fish? One of the things I always tell people is to just follow a simple recipe. I believe in ones where you can pop by a local supermarket on the way home, get a basket and have a half-decent meal on the table by 8 o' clock, without busting a gut.

HFS: How would you encourage people who don't know where to start?

Peter: You can't say, "I don't know what to do with lentils." We've all got Google, there are recipes, apps, even audio books. If you stock up on pantry staples like tinned tomatoes, anchovies, stock, olives, eggs, there's always something you can knock out, say an omelette. Just find yourself a good cookbook, like Jamie Oliver's 30-minute Meals. You'll be amazed at how fabulous things can turn out when you follow a trusted recipe.

HFS: With 30 years in the industry, pairing ingredients must be a breeze for you. But how would an amateur go about it?

Peter: Very often, good combinations are made for you by nature. There are ingredients that have an affinity with each other. It's what I like to call cooking by association. So think of an ingredient, then consider where it comes from and when it's at its best. For example, salmon is mostly found in cold places like Norway and Northern Europe, so you could pair it with other ingredients that thrive in dark, cool, wet areas, like fennel, root vegetables and dill. Whereas a fish like tuna is found in warmer Mediterranean climates, so it goes well with olives, tomatoes, basil and lighter herbs that thrive in sunshine.

HFS: Talking of thriving, you've had success at the World BBQ Championships, so you're clearly more than qualified to present this Master Class on braai-ing. What do you hope to teach people?

Peter: There's more to braaing than chops and wors. People don’t just think of it as another cooking method. They see an open flame and think "seared flesh." But you can be a lot more adventurous.

Find out for yourself just how adventurous by catching Peter Goffe-Wood in person at the HealthyFood Studio in Sandton. All courses are open to the public, but spots for this Master Class are limited, so hurry and book your seat today!

Perfect the art of braai-ing in time for Heritage Day

Fancy yourself a braai master, or clueless on how to get the coals going? Whoever you are, the Discovery Vitality HealthyFood Studio has a fun, interactive cooking course for you:

Sign up this Spring:

So wow your friends and family at your next backyard braai: sharpen up your culinary skills by booking a course today!

Recommended for you by Vitality

Looking for more healthy tips and tried-and-tested recipes?

South African soil abounds in fantastic produce all year round, and the Vitality HealthyFood Studio seasonal delights course explores some lesser-known fruits and vegetables and help you to create delicious, healthy meals, throughout the year.

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