Stefan Gates Explains How to Poach Salmon in the Dishwasher and Fry an Egg on Paper

The Extraordinary Cookbook
Stefan Gates, frying an egg on a piece of paper

Did you know that you can poach salmon in the dishwasher and have it turn out deliciously? Or fry an egg on a piece of paper? Or cook kebabs on a car engine? If not, then you're probably not familiar with Stefan Gates, the British food writer, television host, and self-proclaimed gastronaut whose mission it is to make food extraordinary. "I love delicious food, but for me, I need food that makes you smile," says Gates, who is in town for the launch of his new cookbook, The Extraordinary Cookbook, which features recipes for such quirky delights as bread baked in flowerpots, apple caviar, fried frog legs, and, yes, dishwasher salmon.

"We spend so much of our lives eating and cooking, and I see that as an adventure," says Gates. "Every now and then you want to do something extraordinary. Lots of these [recipes] are fantastic for kids. You want kids to be inspired. When people come to my house, I try to transform dinner into a party. We'll do something interactive, like sushi rolling. Everyone's first attempt is rubbish but it turns the evening into a riot. Or I do a crab and hammer party. When the guests arrive they all get a crab and you get your hands dirty. I just like food that makes you laugh and smile and fall in love."

Many of Gates's recipes can be classified as modernist cuisine; he fashions caviar out of using ingredients like sodium alginate and apple juice, but where he sees himself differently is in the enjoyment process. "I'm not keen on a dinner where you just get food. I want to make you laugh and enjoy the meal." One of his favorite dishes? The "bum" sandwich, which is made by wrapping a sandwich in plastic wrap and sitting on it, which takes inspiration from Gates's days as a schoolboy accidentally sitting on his knapsack and squishing his lunch, and also the French pan bagnat sandwiches. "People think it's naughty, sitting on food. It just transforms the eating into an amazing adventure."

"Vegetable instruments are another way of getting people to be fascinated," says Gates, who paused briefly to play his carrot clarinet during this interview. It sounded surprisingly good, though with more of a saxophone sound. "My life is about playing with food."

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