What’s Cooking?

For me, cookbooks are eye candy. I start with the cover and flick through the pages taking in the tantalising images, my excitement building.

So many people out there purchase books due to the images rather than the actual contents. If a cookbook has an eye-catching cover and many images, it’s sold. With so many cookbooks being released every week, they need to be different, unique and better from the rest.

Chefs and home cooks out there read cookbooks cover to cover. It’s a great way to educate oneself and at the same time get people in the kitchen cooking away. But there are some angry little readers out there and when the recipe is wrong, they’re out there emailing, calling and complaining. I know this firsthand, as I’ve actually had a reader come into Bathers to have a meeting with Serge. Everything that is created at Bathers is recipe tested at least three times!

Only a week ago I received an email from Serge, who was away working hard in Paris eating and giving culinary tours. He wanted me to deal with a lady about a recipe not working. I had to re-test the recipe and call her straight after. So the outcome after a 45-minute conversation was this: Nadia has a beautiful expensive oven. She’s writing her own book. She’s overly excited that I’m Greek-Cypriot although with the surname Polyviou she is convinced I am French. She thinks I’m amazing and for that 45 minutes the conversation was all worth it. She attempted the Sable Basque and unfortunate undercooked the dough, so when she took the ring off, the custard softened the pastry and it cracked the sable dough.

I’ve worked on two finished cookbooks and am currently working on another two, one being Serge’s with my name at the back and the other being a collaboration of another 35 talented pastry chefs from around the world, showcasing pastry chefs and our work. Some of these people include John Ralley at Manta restaurant, Pierre Roelof in Melbourne and the most amazing and talented Andrea Reiss from Chez Dre – my favourite place in Australia. This woman is rocking the senses of pastry chefs and patisseries Australiawide and is one to watch out for.

I am lucky overall having the opportunity to write and work along Serge. I tell him what to put in the book, give him recipes and he walks away re-writes and re-creates what he sees in his head and comes up with the style of the book, too. He never disregards and is always grateful for my input, as am I for the opportunity.

Cookbooks are fun, stressful and yet really interesting. When recipe testing you actually have to think of what you’re writing and creating. Saying “make a sabayon add cream” or “make an Italian meringue” just isn’t going to help the reader achieve the recipe and nor is giving them incorrect recipes or changing a couple of things so you don’t share your creation.

If they’re anything like me, they can look at the product and 99 per cent of the time figure it out – if I can’t then my analysis and sous chef Brooke Stephens sure can. I tell her what flavours I want and the dessert I’m thinking and off she goes for playtime and creates.

The current cookbook I’m working on is about my creations, style and really showcasing the artistic side of a pastry chef in which in many cases we are neglected. I’ve always wanted to release my own cookbook outside of helping someone create his or her own.

The raspberry and yoghurt cheesecake featured in this issue (see page 52) is a recipe I gave Serge for his cookbook. Being a Greek-Cypriot I’m obsessed with Greek yoghurt, olive oil and and a touch of spiced honey and figs. I used raspberries due to the colour and it breaks the sharpness of the yoghurt.

Cookbooks are about allowing the reader to follow a journey, having an experience and been able to re-create something that has been made with love and passion without the following a recipe that works without just been a guideline. Remembering that behind every cookbook author there is a team creating the dream and the experience for the reader. I could never do what I do without my team and nor can all these chefs that have their pastry chef forgotten and take the glory.


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