A man for all seasons champions the Tuscan spirit
Peter Gorton is a sound engineer and music producer for Red Room Studio with an ear for indie, rock and metal. He produces music for homegrown acts such as Sun Eskimos. Born of US and Austrian parents, and raised in Loppiano, Italy, near Florence, Gorton studied drums at London Music School. In 2005, he joined the rock band Soler with twins Julio and Dino Acconci, which led him to Asia - first to Macau, then to Hong Kong.
As it turns out, his hands were as good at pounding and kneading potato dough into gnocchi as they were at hitting the drums. Having left Soler after four years, a career detour as a private kitchen chef was an idea sparked by friends who had sampled his Italian cooking.
In 2009, Gorton started Peter's Kitchen in Sheung Wan, cooking Tuscan fare, from pasta with pesto and scallops to slow-cooked meats such as porchetta (rolled pork packed with herbs). Despite acquiring a foodie following, when he was offered a music producing job he took it. But he didn't throw in the apron. He still sometimes works as a private chef
Tell us about your beginnings in Hong Kong. How did you join Soler?
I come from a village of 700 people, and the Soler boys were in the next town, so we knew each other and played music together. When they moved to Macau and Hong Kong, Soler started doing really well. They asked me to join them. I worked with them for about four years, first as a drummer and later I produced one of their albums.
After a falling out, my life took a drastic turn. I needed a break from them and the industry, so I didn't do anything for a while.
How did you get the idea to start a private kitchen?
Friends kept suggesting it. One of them knew people behind a private kitchen called More in Sheung Wan. They were more than happy to add a person to share the place. They wanted someone to share the cost. I did Tuscan cooking, which is where I'm from. I researched old recipes, read a lot of books about slow-cooked Italian food, and called my mother a lot.
How did your passion for food start?
I'm from a family of eight - my parents plus six siblings. My mum had a hard time cooking meals for eight people every day, so she started repeating dishes. As a teenager, I got involved in the kitchen, helping to cook something different for a change.
A new Italian restaurant seems to appear every week. Why do you think they are so popular?
Italian food is not too expensive - unlike French food. If you cook French food, the cost is much higher. Italians do great fish and meat, but most people think of Italian food as pasta, pizza and bread. Those things aren't very expensive to make.
What was your initial impression of the city's dining scene?
I love local food, especially at dai pai dongs and wet market food courts - anything where the food is more down to earth. It's good to see where the food you're eating comes from.
I hate it when people eat meat, but can't stand seeing blood or where the animal comes from. Why don't they want to know about that? People can be disconnected about where their food comes from.
What do you mean?
When I was 19, we were driving through the mountains at night and we crashed into a deer. You could see that it was about to die. I said: 'We should kill it!' Everyone was shocked. I said: 'But you eat sausage and meat every day, yet can't think of doing the same with an animal right in front of you?'
Did you eat it in the end?
When we got home, we took my mum's knife and went back to that deer and tried to kill it, but both of us ended up crying because it was actually really intense trying to kill an animal. Then the police came.
We came out of the bushes and, of course, all they saw was us with a knife and blood everywhere, which must have looked suspicious. The police pulled out their guns and yelled at us to stop, and it was quite scary. In the end they made us leave. I'm sure they took the deer and had it for dinner themselves.