Author Q&A | Philippa Sibley

Hannah Koelmeyer
14 December, 2013

Following on from her sweet opus, 'PS Desserts', Philippa Sibley is now taking on the savoury side in her new cookbook, 'New Classics'. We talk to Philippa about what makes a classic.

Q: You have garnered a lot of acclaim as a pastry and dessert chef, yet New Classics focusses more on the savoury side of things. Is it a nice change to move away from the sweet stuff?

I was pigeonholed as a dessert chef. I was trained as a 'proper chef' and think that everybody who cooks should be au fait with all sections. I see cooking as entertaining; I've never considered it a trade or myself as a tradesperson – cooking is all encompassing.

Q: What do you think draws a chef to work in pastry?

Don't know, as I have a topical allergy to flour, an obsessive aversion to sticky fingers and no sweet tooth AT ALL.

Q: Are there any personality traits you feel are somewhat particular to the pastry chef?

I guess attention to detail and a mathematical mind for the formulaic specifics in dessert recipes. Hilariously, I failed at maths terribly. Everything is in by the gram measurements, unlike in savoury – which made writing New Classics difficult as I had to be specific about salt and pepper, which was annoying.

Q: This is your second cookbook, following on from PS Desserts – do you enjoy writing about food?

No, in the same way I wouldn't enjoy writing about porn. I find it a bit creepy. It's difficult for me to wax lyrical about food.

Q: How would you compare the experiences of cooking and writing? Feeding people can be a somewhat ephemeral pleasure – does the longevity of a published book appeal to you?

Hopefully it will eventually. In the meantime I still haven't  had my stitches out. It's a legacy I like to leave. My late father did say to me that the one thing he wanted to achieve in his life was to turn down at least one publisher. So yes, longevity.

What do you think it is that makes a dish a classic?

Marriages. Marriages of flavours: tomato and basil; mushroom and game; peach, raspberry and vanilla. I'm a sucker when it comes to the old school, I just like to put a new spin on it.

Are there any classic dishes that have fallen out of fashion that you’d love to see return to restaurant menus?

No, I've already put it all back in.

And what would you love to see disappear?

Coral lettuce and truffle oil.

What are the most important basic recipes or techniques you would recommend home cooks master in order to build a foundation of cooking skills?

Stocks, pastries and salad dressings.

And what is the classic you cook at home most often?

Chicken with bois boudran.

New Classics by Philippa Sibley is available in full on Cooked. Check it out here.


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