Kristi Knowles is the owner of Pansabella Providores, and she is also a dedicated collector of autographed cookbooks – a habit that formed as a child and has continued to grow over the years. Kristi’s inspiration for cooking and preparing food ranges from Jamie Oliver and Donna Hay to Marco Pierre White …
We all know that you are the wonderful owner of Pansabella Providores at Coffs Central. You have recently moved into a brand new space. How is that all coming along? What is the most exciting thing about your new adventure?
The new store is fantastic, thank you. We have been totally overwhelmed by the reaction of the Coffs Coast community. There has been so much support and encouragement. Everyone really seems to love what Gowings have done with the centre, and people just love the space.
The most exciting thing about the new adventure is the opportunity to provide our service to even more people. We were very limited in the old shop in terms of space. We can now offer a better menu because of the new kitchen, more seating even in wet weather, an expanded deli selection, a dedicated flower area, and the option to dine with us at night three days a week.
How did your fascination with having your cookbooks autographed by their authors begin?
My fascination with cookbooks began as a little child. I loved to watch my grandmother cook, and I guess I started ‘collecting’ cookbooks from her and my mother’s kitchen. When I say collect, I mean I would keep them under my bed as if they were my own! The autographed side of it really started when I was living in London, and I worked with a few of the ‘celebrity chefs’. I was able to meet them and get my favourite book autographed. This continued when I moved back to Australia, meeting the likes and working with Pete Evans and Donna Hay. I was very fortunate to meet these people and really wanted a ‘keepsake of these fortunate events’
Who really inspires you in relation to your passion for food?
It was my family who really encouraged me to cook from an early age. There are quite a few old photos and even some tragic home movies of me standing on a little stool stirring a wok and pretending to be hosting my own cooking show.
From the modern era, I think Jamie Oliver is my biggest inspiration. His ability to make food so approachable, so easy and so delicious is fantastic. For someone who was very technically trained, he has been able to take the ‘cheffiness’ out of his technique, so everyone can cook his dishes.
Donna Hay would be a close second. She has done a similar thing in terms of making her recipes ‘approachable’, always with fabulous results. In fact, Jamie Oliver was quoted as saying that Donna Hay was, in fact, his favourite Australian cooking personality on his last visit to the country.
Do you like MasterChef? What is your opinion on that show; do you think it’s good for the industry?
I’m have really enjoyed the latest series of MasterChef the Professionals. Marco Pierre White truly is the very best of the best. To hear anything he has to say on food is truly an honour. The contestants aren’t just ‘saying it for the camera’, when they say he is their hero. As far as top end cuisine goes, he is God to the food industry. I met Matt Preston a few years ago – I think after the second series of the show. He certainly is a ‘big personality’, who truly loves his food. But I just love the way Marco can connect people’s passion in life to the food they cook. I think he is a little less scary than he has been made out to be and has a very philosophical outlook on what motivates people to cook.
I think it (the show) has its good and bad points. I think consumers may get slightly the wrong impression of what goes on in a commercial kitchen. The preparation required for service is constant. My team start at 6am and continues on working until 6.30pm on a week night and past 11pm during night service. When you hand make as many components as we do, it never stops.
But I love that it has engineered a different type of passion in people around food, really highlighting the skill of the professionally trained side of the business, and I have certainly picked up quite a few new tricks and techniques as a result.
Who and where is the strangest place you’ve asked an author to sign your cookbook? Or a favourite story?
Margret Fulton was absolutely one of the funniest people I have ever met. I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of her latest cookbook at Quay Restaurant in Sydney. We were treated to a interview with her on a little stage before our lunch was served. She told a brilliant story of a time she accidentally singed off most of her eyebrows carrying a flaming pudding to the Christmas table one year. Her Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery is my number one go to book about all things food.
Any final words:
All the signed books will be on display in Pansabella for the next month.
Thank you Kristi.
We want to know about you! Let us know what you collect, and you might just be our next Collectors Corner guest!
ph. (02) 6650 9343
This article can be found in issue 31 of Coffs Coast Focus