Monday, January 4, 2016

Chef Gabrielle Hamilton Speaks About Writing and her Appointment as Stratford Chef School Gastronomic Writer in Residence 2015/16.



Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef/owner of New York’s Prune, the author of both the memoir Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef ranks and the Prune cookbook, and a star of season 4 of the PBS series Mind of a Chef. It is my opinion that Hamilton ranks among the upper echelons of food memoirists M.F.K. Fisher and Elizabeth David.

Launching her Canadian visit on January 11th 2016, Chef Gabrielle Hamilton will be in conversation with fellow Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer In Residence and notable author Ian Brown at the Toronto Public Library Appel Salon Series. The two acclaimed authors will discuss Hamilton’s life as a chef and writer. This event will be held at the Appel Salon in Toronto Reference Library.

While in residence at the Stratford Chefs School, Chef Hamilton will work alongside students for three dinners, bringing her Prune to Stratford’s Prune Restaurant (the school’s dinner venue partner). Dates include: Friday January 15th, Thursday January 21st and Saturday January 23rd. These exclusive four-course dinners, with wine pairings, are priced at $85.00 plus HST. Reserve your seat by calling the school or visiting the Stratford Chef School website.

 Sunday January 17th, Richmond Station is hosting a Stratford Chefs School pop-up dinner not to be missed. Alumni will get to collaborate with Chef Hamilton and Richmond Station co-owners, Carl Heinrich and Ryan Donovan, who are both 2005 Stratford Chefs School alumni. The highly praised Richmond Station is located in Downtown Toronto. Dinner will include four courses, wine and the opportunity to meet these culinary greats. Ticket price is $150. 

Richmond Station opened in 2012 and was a huge success from the start. "Committed to delicious food and excellent hospitality", Heinrich and Donovan have honed a team who appreciate quality local ingredients and thoughtfully crafted dishes. 

In advance of her upcoming visit to Toronto and Stratford as Stratford Chef School Gastronomic Writer in Residence 2015/16, I posed a few questions to Hamilton.

Bryan Lavery: What is your writing routine like? How do you fit it into your busy life?

Gabrielle Hamilton: I don’t have a routine for writing any more than I do for sleeping or eating. I just get whatever I can on any given day. It is not ideal, and I often wish for a series of uninterrupted hours to just focus and polish up the work, but on the other hand, there is something motivating about seeing a brief window/opportunity and seizing it with urgency. I think of it just as a fact to live with and work around this fact of limited and unpredictable writing time—unless I decide to burn down my restaurant and put my children up for adoption.

Bryan Lavery: What experiences developed your voice as a writer?

Gabrielle Hamilton: By chance, the voice was the only thing I was born with. The rest of the craft has been learned and practiced.

Bryan Lavery: What insights about writing do you feel you can offer the Stratford Chef School students as Gastronomic Writer in Residence?

Gabrielle Hamilton: That it feels better on the page, and makes the work stronger when you try to tell the truth rather than sell the truth. That it is easier to write the more you write, like cooking itself perhaps? That the very best food writing is simply good writing that happens to be around food, and that all writing—even food writing—requires rigor and discipline and technique.

Bryan Lavery: I have heard you in an interview say that you would like to write a novel. Do you think this is something you will do?

Gabrielle Hamilton: Sure. When it’s right. 

Bryan Lavery: What kinds of foods do you think are overrated?

Gabrielle Hamilton: The meals that are designed to “blow your mind” and to compel you to spend your meal talking about the genius of the chef.

Bryan Lavery: What is one of the most memorable meals you've had?

Gabrielle Hamilton: Please read Blood, Bones and Butter for the answer to this question!

Bryan Lavery: You write that your experiences with hunger were some of the most important credentials for opening the Prune? Can you briefly explain this?

Gabrielle Hamilton: I did not have formal training and had never run a restaurant before I opened my own. So I had to do a full and honest reckoning with myself when it came to open Prune about what credentials I might have that would actually help me succeed. It was clutching at straws, but having an extended and repeated, episodic relationship to very real hunger—and the attendant cravings and the longings and the gratifications and the hospitality and the generosity of strangers—all added up to at least one thing on my weak resume that gave me the footing to think I could cook for people and feed them nicely.






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