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Rugby, rucks and restaurants with Peter Gordon

Rugby, rucks and restaurants with Peter Gordon

by Great British Chefs 18 September 2015

Growing up in a nation besotted with rugby, chef Peter Gordon has plenty of memories linked to New Zealand and its national sport. With the Rugby World Cup looming in the UK, we asked for his unique perspective on the game as a Kiwi chef living in London.

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New Zealand is one the world’s greatest rugby nations: with an indomitable presence on the pitch and the Haka ritual which is recognisable the world over, the All Blacks are a force to be reckoned with. In the build-up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we talked to chef and rugby fan Peter Gordon, a native Kiwi now cooking at the innovative London restaurants, The Providores and Tapa Room, and Kopapa, about his memories of the sport and links to his current career.

The coastal town of Wanganui, where Peter grew up, is home to the ‘Butcher Boys’, the championship team based at Whanganui RFC, which was established in 1888 and nicknamed for the logo on their jersey and team colours – which are reminiscent of a traditional butcher’s apron. Peter remembers weekend matches well: ‘I went every Saturday to Whanganui rugby grounds, so rugby culture was huge. Everyone went to the rugby.’

Here Peter hits the nail on the head when it comes to rugby spectators. It’s a very inclusive game, with the stands equally full of families as they are of die-hard fans. Following teams through highs and lows, rugby is a notoriously social event and, with many teams having their own club house food and drink, is sure to play a big part of both celebrations and commiserations. Here in the UK we might think of beers and burgers as typical match fare, and it seems the Kiwi counterparts are no less meaty... ‘meat pies, sausage rolls, New Zealand beers, hot dogs in batter on sticks’. Not the healthiest of diets, but the meat pie in particular is considered a national dish for both New Zealand and Australia; a hand-sized pastry pie filled with beef and gravy, it’s the ultimate take-away snack.

With this in mind, Peter has created a new take on the meat pie to celebrate the World Cup. Developed specifically for The Tapa Room menu, this refined version still harks back to the original: ‘our head of kitchen Paul Melville developed a British/New Zealand hybrid. British beef, the pastry is Kiwi-style and there’s Tuatara ale, [served with] Aunty Mary’s Chow-Chow (a piccalilli with mustard, veg, and vinegar).’ The addition of Wensleydale and mushrooms further reinforces the British twist, and elevates this humble pie to a restaurant-quality dish.

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Peter’s whole kitchen team were involved in the development of this dish, and with this he draws parallels to rugby as a team sport, observing ‘if you work together the goal is more easily achieved as a team.’ Although Peter’s name is the one associated with the restaurants, he fully recognises that the team are essential to their success: ‘sometimes you need to let one of the team take the glory. And you have to look after your mates.’

With meat pies at the ready and team spirit raging through the kitchen, all that’s needed now are the players… The entrance of the All Blacks to any match is something not to be missed: ‘The Haka always sends a shiver down my spine. It’s incredibly powerful and emotional. It’s always seen as aggressive but it’s actually a stamp of authority and very welcoming.’

With this clear passion for his home team, which hasn’t diminished despite his many years living and cooking in London, it’s no surprise that he’s backing them to hoist the trophy at the end of this year’s tournament. Whether you too back the All Blacks, currently standing as bookies’ favourite, or support a team closer to home, make sure you have a pie handy to see you through every tense scrum and heart-stopping penalty of this year’s world cup.

 
 
 

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