Q&A with Renowned Chef Curtis Stone
Curtis Stone on his approach to home cooked meals, time spent with loved ones, and how to create everyday special moments in Good Food, Good Life.
For renowned Australian chef Curtis Stone, a home cooked meal shouldn’t be complicated. Instead, let go of the rules and focus on the special people in your life. (And what better way than his Simple Roast Chicken and Potatoes or a glass of his Pineapple-Lime Margaritas?) His newly released cookbook, Good Food, Good Life is a collection of family favourite dishes that vary from cravings his wife Lindsay had while pregnant with their son to the little sweet treats he whips up with their three-year-old. “All of the great things that come out of a home cooked meal are what the book is about,” Stone says. “The conversation, the communication, the appreciation: all of that I think is so valuable.” For his sixth book, Stone wanted to focus on the celebrations of life focused around food and the special moments that we can make as special or insignificant as we want. “I would much prefer they were special.”
WL: Throughout the cookbook you have shared family stories and personal recipes from your mother’s “Chocolate Salted Caramel Kisses” to your wife-inspired “Lindsay’s Lemonade.” What role has your family played in your cooking and career?
CS: A massive one. I think I fell in love with food because of my mum and my grandma. My mum would be a pretty simple cook day to day but she would be a good baker. She would throw a mean dinner party. She was a single mum so she would be pretty social at home and we would invite people around and I would see her come to life a little. She’s a florist and she would fill the house with flowers and really plan out a dinner party. I would see the results of that – lots of laughter. As a kid you remember those big belly laughs from the next room and the adults all really enjoying themselves and having fun. My grandmother – I named a restaurant after her because she was such an inspiration to me. I want those moments with my kids, not that I’m hung up on becoming the role model that they became for me, but I am hung up on letting my kids lick the beaters and the wooden spoons after I make the batter for a batch of cookies because I can remember how cool that was when I was their age.
WL: You dedicated Good Food, Good Life to your son Hudson. With a chef for a dad, even at three, I’m sure he has some opinions about food. What dish do you enjoy making for him the most?
CS: We probably have the most fun first thing in the morning when we get the juicer out. We go and pull a couple of things out of the garden and we have some other fruit that we bought at the market. We chop it all up and stick it all through the juicer and present it to his mum and he always lists all the ingredients in there. Usually she looks at me like, “You’ve got our son drinking kale, pomegranate, pear, and guava juice. It’s bizarre.” It gives me a lot of pride to think that he is experiencing all of that for the first time. He gets up onto the kitchen counter with his bare feet and he goes for it every morning – he loves being up there.
WL: Since starting a family how has your food philosophy changed?
CS: It hasn’t changed significantly. I still believe strongly in the seasons and eating simple and natural, you know good food at home. If anything I’ve probably gotten a little healthier in my choices because I do think that when you’ve got young kids you care more about what they put into their body than what you put into yours. It’s still exactly as it was. I think that the dinner table should be the heartbeat of your home and your kitchen drives that so I always like to have a really active kitchen.
WL: What do you find the most challenging about whipping up new recipes? You have 130 here, and that’s got to take some time. How does your creative process work?
CS: For me it starts with the ingredient. I’ve just built a restaurant around that very concept. You start with an ingredient and the inspiration there comes from your veggie garden or walking through a farmers market or grocery store. You see a carrot and you’re like, “What can I do with a carrot? How many ways can I imagine it?” And once you start breaking down all the functions – whether it’s turning it into juice, grating it, roasting it, or baking it. As you start to image that ingredient in several different ways you then think what could accompany it, you know honey glazed carrots, and that could be roast lamb, or let’s not get stuck on roast lamb but the flavour of grilling lamb or roasting lamb. I just carry on down that way and then eventually you have a dish in front of you and if it sounds good I cook it, document it, and then you have a recipe.
WL: What is your favourite cooking trick that you think readers should know?
CS: Good question. I have a stand up chicken roaster, and you can do it with a beer can or you can do it with one of those fancy pans, or you can do it in many different ways. Essentially roasting a chicken while it’s standing up allows it to get that gorgeous rotisserie style crispy skin which I think is what makes a roast chicken good.
WL: What’s your favourite dish? What did you enjoy making the most?
CS: Oh my God, I love those Chocolate Caramel Kisses. I make them with my son all the time and we both love making them. He gets chocolate all over his hands, which he thinks is pretty cool, and it’s pretty adorable.
Try out his recipe for Fresh Mint Chip Gelato.