Food editor of Vogue, Michelin-star recipient, and cookbook author, Australian chef Skye Gyngell can check another box off her impressive list of accomplishments having now opened her own restaurant Spring in London. She details this process in her latest cookbook by the same name.In her third cookbook, Gyngell transforms a dusty, damp space into a brightly lit, elegant restaurant pushing aside any anxiety about opening the new space. Spring as a bountiful season — a rebirth and a jumping off point both come through in this book from the light, intimate space to dishes that have a refined wildness to them, like her Mackerel With Bread and Almond Sauce — the fish cooked whole. The natural plating of components, nothing too manipulated, and the use of foraged ingredients give a relaxed feeling to this otherwise ambitious food.
For readers who have never thought of the restaurant as a living organism with every piece working together, this book gives insight into the creation of the dining experience from the ambiance to the last bite. We had the opportunity to ask Gyngell more about her creative process and how the restaurant and subsequent book were conceived:
The Daily Meal: In general, what inspires your creativity in the kitchen?
Skye Gyngell: I find being in the kitchen is the most comfortable and exciting place in the world for me — it has felt that way ever since I first fell in love with cooking and kitchens when I was 18 years of age. I find it incredibly inspiring to work alongside other cooks — creating dishes as a team. It makes me feel incredibly happy that so many young people are seeing cooking and working in restaurants as a whole a viable career choice. If I’m ever feeling flat and uninspired, I’ve learnt to take myself off to a market and just immerse myself in produce — it’s my first port of call in whichever city I might find myself in. I find it impossible not to be inspired when I am surrounded by beautiful produce.
How did your approach in putting together this cookbook differ from your first cookbook, A Year in My Kitchen?
In A Year in My Kitchen, I wrote about my love of produce and cooking — I wanted really to share the joy and immense satisfaction that cooking had brought to my life. My hope with that book was that people may fall in love with the act of cooking itself and the beauty of seasonal, local produce. I think everything I feel about food I expressed in that book — my feelings are exactly the same 10 years later.
How did you go about selecting the recipes you wanted to include in this book?
With the Spring book, I wanted to share the journey of creating the restaurant — I loved the creative process of working alongside so many talented people and I wanted in some way to document that. The recipes in the book largely come from the work we were doing while the restaurant was being built — we had a little test kitchen and worked on the breads, butters, yogurt, ice creams, and cordials. The recipes and the restaurant really evolved side by side.
What, in your opinion, is the most important thing to remember when tackling an unfamiliar recipe for the first time?
When tackling an unfamiliar recipe for the first time (I think it’s worth reading the recipe through a couple of times before you begin), make sure you have all the equipment and produce you need on hand and take it slowly — give yourself enough time. I wouldn't necessarily try a new recipe out for the first time if I was having a dinner party. I’d practice once or twice — get to know it a little. I always find the more I cook a dish, the more I understand the heart of it.
You talk about the actual design of the restaurant in the book. How does that aesthetic play into the dishes you serve and by extension the recipes in this book?
I think the design of the restaurant is very much a reflection of how we cook at Spring — light, fresh, and simple. My sister, Briony, designed the restaurant — it was a wonderful collaboration and very nice to work with someone who knows you so well. It was very easy for us to understand each other — I wanted a very uplifting space, feminine, yet strong. Almost everyone who worked on the project was a woman, which was incredible. I think the cooking at Spring is also light, quite feminine, yet hopefully strong and assured.