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Skye Gyngell: ‘I got a job washing dishes – and fell in love with cooking’

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  1. What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
    I wanted to be a writer when I was seven or eight. Then at 11 or 12, I wanted to be a nun — you’re very earnest at that age. And then I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. That’s what I began studying. I fell into cooking by accident.

  2. Where did you go to school? Where did you train?
    I went to school in Sydney. I got a job washing up in a restaurant — and fell in love with cooking. I went on to train at a school called La Varenne in Paris.

  3. What was the first dish you learnt to cook?
    A salt-baked snapper with lemon mayonnaise. I was probably about 15 or 16.

  4. Who was or still is your mentor?
    I’ve had a lot. Probably the most life-changing was this really beautiful, spirited, loving Lebanese woman called Layla Sorfie. She owned the restaurant where I did the washing-up when I was a teenager. She took me under her wing and built up my self-esteem.

  5. How physically fit are you?
    Pretty fit, and I’ve gotten fitter as I’ve gotten older. I do Pilates five days a week. To do the work I do, I need to be fit.

  6. Breakfast or dinner: which?
    Dinner. I’ve never done breakfast in my whole life. I don’t register hunger until around 4pm.

  7. Which technique did you struggle to perfect?
    Anything pastry-related. Pastry requires precision and science, and I haven’t got the patience. I’m much more instinctual.

  8. What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
    A little weatherboard cottage up the coast of New South Wales.

  9. What is the luckiest aspect of your life so far?
    I get to do what I love every day.

  10. What’s your biggest extravagance?
    Travelling to spend time with my family: I’ve got a daughter in LA, and my family’s in Australia.

  11. Do you consider food waste?
    One hundred per cent. We have a menu at Spring called Scratch made entirely using food that would otherwise go to waste.

  12. What is your guilty food pleasure?
    Really good sourdough bread and cheese — and butter. I love butter.

  13. In what place are you happiest?
    At home.

  14. Who or what makes you laugh?
    My youngest daughter is hysterical.

  15. What ambitions do you still have?
    I’d like to go much further in terms of working with the environment. We work biodynamically, and we’re working on a programme for young people where they can come and learn to grow on a farm.

  16. What has been your greatest kitchen disaster?
    There have been many over 40 years! Years ago, I was doing a private dinner party and when I started plating the soup, I hadn’t made enough. I had to put it back on the stove and add water. Half the party got the soup as it should have tasted — and half got what must have been like dishwater.

  17. If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?
    I think she’d be really pleased. Life turned out exactly as I would have wished, and in some ways much better.

  18. If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
    Eight and three-quarters. I’m pretty content.

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