Monday, July 30, 2012

Chef Cameron Petley talks about the day TVOne's Close Up arrived in Putaruru with Rick Stein

I got a call one day from a ­producer of the TVNZ show, Close Up. He said to me, ‘Do you want to make some TV with us in a couple of days’ time?’ I said, ‘Nah, I’m pretty busy at the moment, I don’t really have time to do it.’
Then he said, ‘It’d be spending the day with Rick Stein.’ 
I was like, ‘I’ll be there!’ So two days later, I drove over to Port ­Waikato and spent the day with Rick. I could barely ­believe my luck. It’s got to be every cook’s dream to spend a day with such an amazing chef. I used to watch him on TV all the time — I never would have thought that one day I’d get to meet him, let alone cook with him.
He was such a nice guy — exactly like he is on TV. I was quite nervous but he just came up and introduced himself. Even though I was a bit star-struck, he made me feel really comfortable. He wasn’t dressed for the occasion — he had these
nice shoes which ended up with cowshit all up the side of them. But he didn’t seem to mind.
We had a really full-on schedule for a single day. To start with we went whitebaiting — it was pretty amazing that my first time ever whitebaiting was with Rick Stein!
Mind you, it was his first time too, so I didn’t have to worry about him thinking that I didn’t know what I was doing. We missed the tide but we still managed to get enough bait for a feed.
Then we went eeling. That was awesome. I love that you can go eeling with different guys — whether it’s my mates or someone like Rick — and you always learn something. He told me that the eels migrate every couple of years to Tonga. I’d never heard that before. He didn’t mind getting his hands dirty. He was happy getting in and grabbing an eel.
Rick was here promoting Malaysian cooking so he cooked the eel in a Malaysian-style stir-fry. It was really good. He said New Zealand eel was the best he’d ever eaten. I reckon that’s because of the purity of our water.
After eeling, it was time to go dragging for flounder. Once we’d caught a few fish, I had to cook them for him. You can bet I was a bit nervous.
It’s not every day you get to cook fresh ­seafood for one of the world’s best-known seafood chefs!
As if being nervous wasn’t bad enough, I had to cook the flounder on a hotplate outdoors. It was pretty hard to control the heat on it and I ended up burning the fish. Thankfully, Rick didn’t seem to mind and ate it anyway.
The only disappointment for me that day was that we were also meant to go pig hunting but we ran out of time. That would have been awesome but maybe we’ll get the chance next time he’s in town!

The above is an extract from Hunter from the Heartland by Cameron Petley, Ranmdom House ($49.99) being published 3 August.

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