Celia Hay is a qualified professional chef, wine expert, educator, restaurateur, book publisher and devoted mother. She established the New Zealand School of Food and Wine in Christchurch in 1995 and, following the earthquakes, opened a new campus in Auckland in 2012. Every week in the NZ Herald’s Bite Celia revisits basic cooking skills and techniques.
We asked her a few more questions . . .
Who is your cooking idol?
French chef and culinary writer (Auguste) Escoffier – but I would not call him an idol. I call him a master, in the same sense that Bach and Beethoven are for music and Leonardo and Monet are for art.
Where do you draw your culinary inspiration?
What I see is available TODAY.
What is your greatest cooking achievement to date?
Teaching people how to better understand their palates – those crazy sensations like: Savouriness/umami: parmigiano, gravy and Marmite. Chilies that heat and numb your taste buds. Acid: delicious flavours from lemon, lime and an amazing array of vinegars from white wine to sherry to rich and aromatic balsamic. Illusive sweetness: masked in the form of honey, sugar and ripe fruit. Bitterness: the long, lingering finish that you gain from perfectly extracted espresso, quality chocolate, pith of lemons, limes and grapefruit and outstanding wines.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Classic and eclectic.
What’s your favourite meal?
I am always open to something new, created by someone else!
If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
In the last year, I have eaten in the Basque country of Spain enjoying milk-fed lamb cooked in a fire. as well as at Elena Arzak’s three star restaurant, ranked eighth in the world.
I have dined at Heston’s Dinner in London as well as enjoying oysters at the Long Bar in Shanghai. What is best? All of them and so many more!
What are your kitchen must haves?
Good oil, a little butter, garlic, onions, freshly ground pepper and fresh vegetables.
Why do you love cooking?
Because it gives pleasure in delightful and curious ways.
Who is your dream dinner guest?
Richard Branson – the ultimate entrepreneur.
Find out more about Celia.