Dining by the salt lakes? It’s just another day for Paul Iskov, the culinary genius behind Western Australia’s roaming restaurant, Fervor.
With a deep respect for native Australian ingredients and the Indigenous people of our land, Paul Iskov has been combining his passion for food and WA’s unique landscape since 2013.
Working his way through some of the world’s best restaurants including Perth’s Restaurant Amusé, Vue De Monde in Melbourne, D.O.M in Sao Paulo, COI in San Francisco, Pujol in Mexico City, and Noma in Copenhagen, Western Australia is lucky enough to call this chef one of its own.
Ahead of his appearance at Gourmet Escape in November, Paul tells us about his influencers, his challenges, and a pretty sensational surfing incident.
What is your favorite food memory?
Ice cream! I love it. It’s something I always wanted as a kid; and an adult.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Working with the Traditional Owners. We learn so much from the Elders when we visit different communities and different regions of Western Australia. Spending time in country and learning from the Traditional Owners is when I feel most relaxed and inspired. It’s not only Fervor learning, it also helps us to be respectful in how we work with ingredients.
Who is the chef that inspires you the most and why?
Alex Atala. Working with all these amazing ingredients from his region and really paving the way for Brazilian cuisine. His thought process goes a lot deeper than just the food on the plate. He is respectful and thoughtful.
Out of all of your scars, which has the most outrageous story behind it?
It would be my left arm. In 2012 I went on an around-the-word trip. After I had finished at Pujol, I hit the coast of Mexico for a few weeks of surfing. I arrived at Puerto Escondido, and on my second surf I had an accident. I was on a wave and a guy on a stand-up paddleboard had to bail to get under the wave. His board hit my left arm and I felt a hard thud. It didn’t seem too bad until I looked down and saw white (bone I think) then what looked like a butterflied steak. The board smashed my arm open and split two tendons on either side of the bone. I made it to shore and was in the public hospital within an hour. The gentleman whose board it was came to the hospital with me and was very kind to help translate everything from Spanish to English for me. I can remember waking up the next morning when he came back in and said, “I’m glad your arm is alright, and I’m very glad it wasn’t your neck or head”.
What do you like to eat when no one is looking?
Popcorn. Because I’m super messy and we use lots of salt and butter, it’s not a pretty sight.
Where is your favourite country to travel to and eat?
Mexico. I love the food, the people, and the culture. Not only are they delicious, but there is something about eating with your hands. A taco on a back street or down at the beach is something I love.
What is the most challenging ingredient you have come face to face with in the kitchen?
Meen (Bloodroot). It is a native Australian bulb from the same family as the kangaroo paw. It’s dug up and is bright red and has an intense chili flavour that lingers. It’s a very interesting ingredient but it oxidises quickly and turns black. Plus, the intensity of the bloodroot can differ from plant to plant so it can be inconsistent. We have been documenting a lot of different techniques and recipes. We’ve come up with some good recipes but it has taken some time.
What known chefs have you worked for and learned under?
Hadleigh Troy – Restaurant Amusé
Shannon Bennett – Vue De Monde
René Redzepi – Noma
Alex Atala – DOM
Daniel Patterson – COI
Enrique Olvera – Pujol
Short stages: Eleven Madison Park, Quay, Marque, Becasse, Tetsuya’s, Biota, Test Kitchen, and In de Wulf.
The kitchen is a pretty fast paced and pressure filled environment. Have there been times when you have nearly thrown in the towel (given up)? What kept you going?
There haven’t been any situations in the kitchen, but once or twice with Fervor. Logistically, it’s hard work. I remember one night packing down in the rain, it was getting close to 2am and we had equipment everywhere. It’s times like that when you think to yourself, why am I doing this? You’re working 16-hour days, slaving away and hardly being able to pay your bills. It’s our friends and family that keep us going, not only encouraging us but helping out in every way possible. It’s our guests that come and talk to us after and say they have never experienced anything like Fervor before, and that is what keeps us going.
What is the advice that you would give to all the chefs out there who look up to you?
Whatever ingredients you use, use it in a respectful way. If you choose to use native Australian ingredients, remember that the Indigenous people of this country have been using it for thousands of years, figuring out what is edible and what isn’t. Take time to go on cultural tours to learn the importance of these ingredients. The way that Indigenous people treat nature is inspiring and a good example of the thoughtfulness that should be put in to each ingredient we eat.