My food journey

My earliest food memory is of me cooking queen cakes in our kitchen at home, I cannot tell you how many of these delicious mini cakes I must have whipped up over time but they were definitely the start of my food obsession. My nana lived right next door to us and I always used to share my baking with her, she would wrap it in a tissue and say” I’ll save it for later dear” ……next minute she would have unwrapped and devoured it right before your eyes.

Growing up we lived on a farm and were very much a meat and three veg family. Mum used to do a lot of baking, shortbread was one of her staples but there was usually a pretty good array of tasty slices in the pantry, the classics like Belgium slice which is my fav, ginger crunch, sultana cake and Louise slice.

 

It is funny how sometimes simple can be the most memorable, mum used to make salted peanuts sometimes on weekends and they were definitely a highlight for me, salty, buttery and still warm from the oven they were so good and a real treat.  I also remember jam turnovers, nothing but store brought pastry with a solid helping of raspberry jam inside and baked in the oven until fluffy and golden with jam oozing out the sides, add some vanilla ice cream and you were good to go, certainly nothing fancy but memorable none the less. There were also the weekend pancakes, thin, rolled up simply with sugar and lemon, this was the perfect combination of sweet and sour for me and they definitely turned into a house favourite.

I used to love cooking dinner for the family as I got older. I think it is safe to say that my cooking skills were probably not great but I pushed ahead anyway creating absolute chaos in the kitchen, I remember it all being quite stressful plating up four meals, if only I knew what was ahead of me….

As a teenager my foodie experiments were put on the back burner.  I took home economics all the way through high school but for most part I was too busy writing notes to my friends and discussing what we were going to do in the weekend.  It wasn’t until my final year that my teacher took me to the open evening for the Catering and Hospitality school where we were served dinner.  This was some years ago when chefs wore giant top hats and neckerchiefs, I loved the whole idea of it.  So, with the end of my school days fast approaching and no idea what I was going to do with my life I decided just like that that I was going to be a chef.

That kicked off my journey at catering school, very classical cooking, learning knife skills by chopping like a million vegetables into small dice which have technical names I have now forgotten. I discovered salt and pepper and just how delicious it makes your food taste – this was major. I still have my practical cookery book from those days it amuses me browsing the pages filled with recipes like stewed oxtail, chicken vol-au-vent and stuffed tomatoes.  Did I mention the pictures tho…they are gold.

As I was flatting at the time my food experiences pretty much consisted of McDonald’s so you can image my delight when I got to eat at school during the day. The most memorable dish I created at school was lasagne, I know fancy right.  I just remember that being a real wow moment for me, the amount of flavour that was packed into that one dish.  Beautiful tomato-based meat sauce, creamy white sauce and a crusty cheesy topping, comfort food heaven!

I graduated from culinary school and was free to go out into the real world of hospitality and see what it had in store for me.  My working life didn’t get off to a great start at a hotel, let’s just say there was nothing inspired about that food!  I went through a few jobs now realising that the real world is quite different from the safe surrounds of the culinary school kitchen.  It wasn’t until I got a job in an Italian restaurant that I finally started to feel inspired by food again.  I started there as a kitchen hand but the chef gave me the chance to work on the larder section making salads and helping with deserts, I loved this and again had many “moments” here where I realised just how delicious simple creations like freshly made basil pesto can be.

After I left here I moved back and forth between Christchurch and Wellington for the most part just taking whatever job I could get my hands on. When I settled back in Wellington I took a job at an extremely busy restaurant and was there for quite some time until it finally drove away any of my remaining passion for food.  Extremely long hours, no days off, no social life and major stress – yes that is all pretty standard for the life of chef but I hated it.

At that point I was offered the opportunity to work the front of house instead, something I had never done before.  I jumped on it even tho I was terrified of the wine list, how was I ever going to learn that? A French wine, what does that taste like?  I had a lot to learn!

From here I continued working front of house for a number of Christchurch and Wellington restaurants and wineries’ some experiences being very forgettable and some being just the inspiration I needed to get into food again.  I had decided at that point that cooking for a job wasn’t for me, I much preferred pottering around at home experimenting with food in a much more leisurely setting.

I worked for some super inspiring chefs over the following years and figured out I could learn just as much if not more about food by working front of house at places that cared enough to invest in training their staff.

From there after a short stint as a barista I moved into the world of wine retail, something I had some knowledge of at that point but when I walked into the wine store I knew I was in trouble.  Walls just lined with bottle after bottle of delicious wines with names I couldn’t even pronounce let alone sell.

I worked here for a number of years and I am pleased to report it did get easier and yes, we did get to try lots of wines.  Of course, where there’s wine there’s food right so I continued my food journey through the world of wine.  Cooking for family and friends and dining out in delicious restaurants always happy to be able to try something new.  It was at this point that I started styling displays for the store which started out quite tame and over time got more and more elaborate.  This was my introduction to “making things look pretty” as I called it at the time and it was my favourite part of this job besides the wine of course.

After leaving there I continued to develop my passion for food at home with family and friends always willing participants for my experimental cooking.  I have never really been much of a recipe follower I prefer to go off recipe and see where it takes me, sometimes good sometimes not so good but fun either way.

After not really being sure of the direction I wanted to take at that point Revised Edition came about firstly as a means to restyle old furniture.  Not even remotely food related but it is funny how these things always lead to something else and from there I figured out that product styling was what I wanted to do.

Since I met my husband who is also a keen foodie specialising in cheese on toast we have been on a pretty exciting food journey overseas and in our own back yard.  It comes as no surprise I am sure that Paris is my favourite food city followed closely by New York.  In Paris we ate amazing pastries (obviously) cheese galore, snails and even something as simple as a baguette with ham cheese and tomato turns into a taste sensation. In New York we had the most amazing tender and spicy fried chicken, the best ramen and loads of totally delicious vegan and vegetarian food which I loved.

A couple of years on and my choice to get into product styling has brought me right back to the food. A few years ago, when I was in between jobs a friend asked me what my ideal job would be and I said food styling not really thinking that would be any kind of possibility.  That was before the social media storm and you couldn’t just jump on Instagram and start advertising your services to a willing audience.

These days I am all about the healthy lifestyle and am really enjoying experimenting with new recipes for raw slices and basically anything that resembles a sweet treat without the sugar. Last year I found out I can’t eat dairy anymore, having to say goodbye to cheeseboards has been tough but again I am enjoying being creative and finding alternatives so I don’t feel like I am missing out.

I feel like food is the one thing that I have held onto over the years, it always seems to find a way of popping back up in my life. I love that it brings people together, cooking food for family and friends is what I love to do.  The fact that my job now involves cooking and styling food is amazing and I am so excited about where my food journey will take me next.

Nikki

2018-11-09T04:27:49+00:00