Chef Peter Gilmore, much feted for holding his three-hats for 17 years and creating the iconic Snow Egg dessert, might devote most of his time running glowing kitchens under the sails of the Opera House at Bennelong, and just over the water at Quay, but he’s very much in his element when travelling—especially to farms. Gilmore is a curious chef and enjoys pushing boundaries. As one would expect, the produce in Gilmore’s garden isn’t as prosaic as grape on the vine. There’s Par-Cel, a hybrid of celery and parsley, silver sorrel and more.
“I began my home garden about 15 years ago, with herbs, just like everyone, and gradually started to feel that bliss of going out and gathering a couple of rocket leaves to put on my sandwich. It stunned me,” he says. Back in September 2012, Gilmore had the opportunity to go to the Mistura Food Festival in Lima, Peru. While there, he discovered a lot of unique ingredients that he had not seen before, including a purple corn, referred to locally as Kculli Corn. “It is an Inca heirloom and in Peru it is juiced and consumed as a drink called Chicha Morada”, says Gilmore.
A couple of years later he was able to track down some seeds and started to grow this corn in his garden and did so for a couple of seasons. “Once I managed to collect enough seeds, I arranged for these to be grown on a larger scale in Byron Bay. Over the past couple of years, I have used this corn as a purple polenta and it is simply served with a smoked oxtail consommé at Quay,” shares Gilmore.
But to be a grower is to be accustomed to failure. At home, Gilmore has plastic containers full of seeds. He has even tried growing the Chinese Yuxijiangbinggua pumpkin. Clearly, Gilmore will not run out of new things to try anytime soon…