FOR the record, Peter Ford has no aspirations to be the next celebrity chef.
“I’m too ugly and old,” says Peter, 50, in his characteristic self-mocking style.
“I’ll never be the next Nigella, she’s too luscious. And Jamie Oliver has that appealing lisp.
“There’s so many chefs in front of cameras, people are sick of them. Who is running restaurants anymore?”
Yet despite his protestations Peter – who runs his eponymous catering company in Ballarat – is happy to be the frontman for a series of DIY DVDs all about cooking.
He started last year with Sausage Making With Peter Ford, progressed to The Whole Hog: Nose to Tail Butchery, and has just completed his third, Preserving, for Fruits, Vegetables and Meats. So why, if he has an aversion to celebrity cooking, do the DVDs?
“I have the type of personality I’ll give anything a go. It’s like I’ll put anything in my mouth for the sake of tasting it.”
In his personal life this philosophy has extended from sailing to motorbiking, and in his sensory life it has extended from eating duck’s tongue to insects and various beastly testicles. While Peter has no background in TV production, he says when he was approached by a production company to produce the DVD series, sold around Australia, he jumped at the chance.
“None of it is rehearsed and I do get nervous and get the giggles and it can take a while to get through it,” he says.
“But once I punch myself in the arm I am capable of delivering one long sentence.”
Self-deprecating as he is, Peter has a sound base from which to spruik his food education DVDs. He was raised in Mornington and left school at 16 to work in a local restaurant. Once he’d decided cooking was to be his career he picked up the Good Food Guide, chose the top three restaurants and applied for an apprenticeship. “The first one I rang was Fanny’s and when
I told them I’d hitchike from Mornington to the train at Frankston and meet them in Toorak they gave me the job because they liked my enthusiasm.”
During these early years Peter would help on his parent’s newly purchased farm in Kyneton, slaughtering chooks and sheep, learning how to butcher a carcass. He then had a long career in the restaurant industry, working overseas and around Melbourne before moving in the late ’80s to Kyneton to raise his four children, with wife, Louise.
While working in central Victoria, he immersed himself in the traditions of kitchen gardens, seasonal and local – trendy now, but unrecognised back then. The family then moved back to Louise’s home town of Ballarat, where Peter established his own catering company in 2000.
While the majority of his work is catering for functions, he also has a sideline in The Real Meal, packaged dinners for busy people, such as handmade potato gnocchi and red Thai duck curry, which use local ingredients and are sold at independent supermarkets.
“When I worked in restaurants I didn’t give caterers much weight. But I was converted. It’s a far more stable job and the beautiful thing is every day I get to create a kitchen somewhere different.’’ Peter says while TV shows such as MasterChef leave “me cold’’, he enjoys the likes of Luke Nguyen’s friendly culinary adventures around Vietnam, or British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s promotion of seasonal, local food.
“Food conservation is so important, the diversity of food. There used to be more than 800 species of corn but now on the main street there’s just four.
“If we don’t keep eating some foods they’ll disappear and we’ll all be eating frozen, canned, chemical meals.”
Peter Ford’s DVDs available through videoproduction.com.au/shop or Peter Ford Catering, Ballarat, ph: (03) 5339 2466; peterfordcatering.com