Nana sparked a love of cooking for chef

Craig Ludlow has been cooking up a storm in the kitchen since he was a youngster. Taranaki Community News caught up with the professional chef and WITT tutor to find out about his favourite recipes, Gordon Ramsay, and his dream dinner party.

What are your earliest memories of cooking? 
Being in the kitchen with my Nana Pat, making things and listening to all the family gossip. She taught me the basics and helped me realise my love for food.

And what do you do now?
I teach the diploma in advanced cookery at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki. I have worked in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years. I started right here in New Plymouth, working at Marinovich’s in the mid 90s and studied at WITT when it was the Taranaki Polytech.

I worked my way up the ranks in kitchens and hotels up until starting at WITT four years ago as a tutor. I’ve lived and worked all over New Zealand and returned home to New Plymouth after the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011. I live in New Plymouth with my wife and our daughter.

Craig Ludlow

If you could throw a dinner party with any three people from history, who would they be, and what would you make them? 
Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Anthony Bourdain and Steven Hawking. I’d make them some pulled pork soft shell tacos, with a spicy salsa and some hot guacamole. I think a few tequilas would make for a few good conversations.

Are you more Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver in the kitchen?
My model for kitchen management is Marco Pierre White, who trained Gordon Ramsay. He never yells, but can cut through you like a knife without ever swearing or raising his tone.

I try to communicate effectively with my learners rather than yelling; nobody learns well if they’re treated badly. Not to say I don’t raise my voice in my kitchens, but it’s to ensure safety and communication, rather than intimidate and humiliate.

On the other side of that dynamic cookery isn’t a fluffy profession. It takes hard work and commitment, and if you are afraid of hard work and don’t like putting in effort then this is not the industry for you, and I’ll let you know what to expect on day one.

What’s your all-time favourite dish?
Anything authentically Mexican, but the best thing I ever had was a Pad Thai on my honeymoon. It could have been the setting and the company though.

The most underrated ingredient? 
This question stumped me a bit. I talked to my wife Joni, (the best Sous Chef I’ve ever had) and she said eggs. Her reasoning was they’re so versatile, they can be sweet, savoury, hot or cold. They can be found in everything from pies to ice cream, mayonnaise to soups.

My opinion is onion, carrots and celery – what chefs call a mire poix. This is the mix of aromatic vegetables that can be combined to add flavour to most complex hot dishes. Understanding when, how and why to use your mire poix is a vital element in learning to cook.

What are your top tips for someone who wants to get better in the kitchen? 
Learn how to use your equipment properly, learn how to control temperature properly and learn about your ingredients. Pick things up in your local supermarket and read the ingredients, ask questions and try new things. And most of all, follow the instructions! If all else fails, read the recipe! Read the equipment manual!

Do you have an amazing recipe you could share with us? One that’s not too hard, but super impressive if you’re trying to wow? 
I do – the Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Pulled Pork

Prep – 15 m
Cook – 5 h
Ready In – 5 h 15 m

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pork shoulder roast (2 kgs)
  • 1 cup barbeque sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon American mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 extra large onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

Directions

  1. Place the pork roast into the slow cooker pour over cooking oil; add all other ingredients. Mix well until the pork is completely covered. Cover and keep in fridge overnight.
  2. Cover and cook on High until the roast shreds easily with a fork, 5 to 6 hours.
  3. Remove the roast from the slow cooker, and shred the meat using two forks. Return the shredded pork to the slow cooker, and stir the meat into the juices.
  4. Spread the inside of both halves of hamburger buns with butter. Toast the buns, butter side down, in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown. Spoon pork into the toasted buns.

For a more traditional Mexican dish, transplant the BOLD ingredients for the list below.
Mexi spice mix
1 teaspoon chili powder (add more if you like)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder (or 2 teaspoons crushed dried fried onions)
1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves

And what delicious boozy drink should we pair with this? 
A good strong hoppy ale, like Panhead supercharger or Emersons 1812. Alternately a good strong frozen margarita.