Australian chef Skye Gyngell is renowned for her exquisite use of seasonal produce. The winner of a coveted Michelin star in 2011 whilst working at Petersham Nurseries, Skye is currently planning the opening of her eagerly anticipated restaurant ‘Spring’.
When working with Mary McCartney in selecting the master craftswomen for the Moments in Light celebration, Skye was an immediate choice. Her elegance and confidence exude, not only in her personality but also in the dishes that she creates with an inimitable talent and refinement.
The Moments in Light curator and photographer Mary McCartney held a photoshoot with chef Skye Gyngell in London where she sought to encapsulate her elegance and natural style.
“I’ve done what I loved and
the rest has followed”
WHAT MADE YOU PURSUE A CAREER IN COOKING AND HOW DID YOU ACHIEVE YOUR SUCCESS?
I think cooking rather found me as opposed to the other way round. I started working in a restaurant to earn some money while at university. I was instantly smitten by working with produce, I love the buzz and excitement of a restaurant kitchen and for some reason I felt instantly at home and confident in that environment – and I’ve felt that way ever since. I achieved whatever success I have by just simply putting one foot in front of the other. I’ve only ever sought to be my own personal best. I’ve done what I loved and the rest has followed.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT GOALS OR ASPIRATIONS?
My immediate goal is to open Spring and for it to be a joyful, happy, welcoming and inclusive-to-all restaurant. I’d also like to be involved with somehow making good food accessible to many more people. I think if you eat well everything else falls into place – you then sleep well, work well and live well!
AT DE BEERS WE ARE CONSISTENTLY INSPIRED BY THE DIAMOND’S NATURAL BEAUTY – WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I feel very inspired by natural beauty as well – I’m constantly astounded by the beauty of nature and really wonderful produce. I always think my job is simply to highlight and showcase nature’s brilliance. I think as a cook to some extent that is my job – to be the custodian of beautiful produce – to honour what producers and farmers have created rather than to transform it so that it is unrecognisable.
WHAT IS YOUR MOMENT IN LIGHT?
I think there are those little moments throughout your life, small epiphanies that change everything or give you an opportunity to grow. Walking through the door of Petersham for the first time when there was almost nothing there but a rickety old garden centre on the edge of the river was one of those moments; it was as if I had a photograph so clearly in my mind of what it could become. I would like to get more involved in the politics of food. I’d like to make a difference at some level in terms of the consumption of good food – food that not only tastes delicious but is really good for you.
HOW DO YOU FEEL TO HAVE BEEN INVITED TO BE ONE OF DE BEERS MOMENTS IN LIGHT CELEBRATED WOMEN AND HOW WAS YOUR SHOOT WITH MARY McCARTNEY?
I felt honoured to be asked – I was very surprised but pleasantly so. To get the opportunity to work both with De Beers and Mary was amazing. Working with her was a dream – it was fun and collaborative and very easy. Mary is very warm and very real and I had a perfect day! I felt special and beautiful (that is unusual for me; I normally feel dishevelled and untidy!). I felt that about wearing De Beers diamonds though – they are so beautiful and soft to wear, they feel part of your body, like they almost mould to who you are. You wear them rather than they wear you.
DO YOU HAVE A WOMAN THAT INSPIRES YOU IN YOUR LIFE OR THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU?
Almost everybody who seems to inspire me are woman – certainly in my chosen career. It’s women who seem to really look at the bigger picture. Alice Waters, Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer, Vandana Shiva, Diana Kennedy; all of these woman have tried to change the world in food for the better. I’m also inspired by my mother who is strong and independent and still so active even though she is now in her late seventies. I think woman are extraordinary – I can’t understand why we don’t totally run the world, we’d be so much better at it!
HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHER WOMEN TO ACHIEVE THEIR DREAMS?
To achieve your goals I believe you have to work hard, learn your craft, whatever that may be. Rather than look for success for success sake – just have great integrity in what you do.