When we were considering who best to review recipes from a practical point of view, we naturally thought of Dish Food Editor, Claire Aldous. Claire has been known to work out 8 out of 10 missing steps in esoterically written recipes, but it was precisely this ability that made us think twice. We needed an enthusiastic amateur baker, with experience - but not years' worth - who could test recipe books from the home cook's perspective.
Enter 26 year old David Parker. Audio Engineer by day, gingerbread house construction worker by night, macaron extraordinaire by weekend. David loves to cook, bake and try delicious food in his spare time, and quickly accepted the challenge. We thought we'd get to know him a little better...
What’s your earliest cooking memory?
I had a kids cookbook and made some breadsticks when I was probably about 10 or 11 that were wrapped in bacon but I didn't really get into food until much later.
Do you remember the first cookbook you bought?
I was probably about 19 and I bought an Italian cookbook that I've barely used! But around the same time I was given Dean Brettschneider's Global Baker and that really got me into baking, bread especially.
Whose cookbook do you find yourself reaching to time and time again?
Mum collected the Australian Women's Weekly cookbooks and they're great for the classics, some of the recipes however are less appealing (jellied salad anyone?). They're all brilliantly annotated by my mum with things like "Don't bother, very unappetising" or "Didn't make it to the cake tin, bake 2!".
What's the best dish you’ve eaten in the past year?
Too much to choose from! But one of my favourite regular lunch time treats is a Roast Pork Wonton Noodle soup from Chinese Cuisine in Mercury Plaza, ask for the chilli to be inside your soup instead of a seperate container (to save 50c!) and mention you'd like it hot. You will have a spiritual spice experience.
What’s in your fridge at the moment?
Lots of eggs from our chickens, butter, lots of cheese, bacon, so many condiments - at least 5 different hot sauces - lettuce, carrots, beetroot (in vinegar), some meatballs, a salmon fillet, plus home made almond milk and an Unbakery blueberry cheesecake from my latest book review!
What do you enjoy about baking? Do you prefer it to cooking?
I do prefer baking, I think with baking there's a magical transformation from the basic ingredients into (hopefully) something amazing. Plus I never really bake out of necessity so it's always a treat!
Recipe you’re proudest of / the David Parker speciality?
I guess macarons? My friend Talita invited me to a class she was running on how to make them and afterwards I felt obliged to try and make them, despite how complicated they looked, but they turned out great and became a nice thing to make for friends. Plus they're super delicious! But I'd say I am known amongst my friends for gingerbread houses, I make two a year (midwinter Christmas and real Christmas) and I try to make them bigger and better each time.
What's your favourite kitchen item?
Currently I am completely head over heels with my new Kenwood stand mixer. I've always wanted one and I figured now I write about food I could definitely justify it!
What are your biggest food influences?
My friends, eating out, I really like watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Mario Batali Ace Of Cakes, BBQ Pitmasters and almost anything about food (although I am not a fan of food competitions). I like to try and learn new cooking skills and work out how things are made so if there's a specific skill involved with a recipe like folding dumpling wrappers or twisting pretzels that inspires me to try out recipes and find the best way to make something from home.
David's Cook The Books column will be published fortnightly right here online at dish.co.nz. Next up - David 'unbakes' recipes from Megan May's latest cookbook, The Unbakery, we can't wait!