MY CULTURAL LIFE: SKYE GYNGELL

Chef Skye Gyngell portrait photo
Carol Sachs

A down-to-earth chef – both in theory and in practice – Australian Skye Gyngell left Petersham Nurseries’ Café (for which she’d earned a Michelin star) behind to set up Spring, her own seasonal and superlatively elegant restaurant in Somerset House in 2014. Neoclassical cornicing and a mirror installation by Studio Peascod aside, it’s Gyngell’s ethical entrepreneurship that impresses. It has driven her to launch Scratch, a pre-theatre menu using wonky or surplus fruit and vegetables from the restaurant’s supplier farm.

My all-time favourite piece of music? I grew up in the 1970s in Sydney, but it was music from the west coast of America that formed the backdrop to my teenage years – I love Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, the Doobie Brothers and any of the Motown classics.

Canadian singer Joni Mitchell in concert
Joni Mitchell, Getty ImagesGetty Images

At the moment I am listening to Beauty in the Dark (Groove With You) by the Isley Brothers and Mos Def – it’s on repeat. If I want to feel instantly happy, it’s Kiss by Prince.

The Gustav Sonata book by Rose Tremain
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain, Chatto & Windus

My favourite writer is Tim Winton. I find his beautiful and visceral descriptions of the Australian landscape and his wonderful, flawed characters irresistible.

The book I am currently reading is The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain. She is another favourite author of mine, and this book is a complete pleasure to read. I’m also dipping into David Tanis’s new book Market Cooking – I really love the way he writes and thinks about food.

My favourite film is The Notebook. It’s my girls’ most-loved film [Gyngell has two daughters]. I’ve seen it a thousand times over the years with them and they always cry when we watch it together, which makes me cry – it’s a sort of ritual! Also, Moonlight left me feeling like I couldn’t breathe – I found it utterly beautiful and deeply moving.

Mahershala Ali and Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight
Moonlight, Mahershala Ali and Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight

The last exhibition I saw was ‘Boom for Real’, the Basquiat (Untitled, 1982) exhibition at the Barbican, which I loved. I also visited the Agnes Martin retrospective at The Guggenheim last year. It is definitely my exhibition of the decade!

Jean- Michel Basquait, Untitled 1982, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled 1982, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Estate of Jean-Michel Basquait, licensed by Artestar New York

I collect cookbooks – I’ve got thousands that I treasure and that inspire me. I’m also drawn to glass objects, and love the work of south London-based glassblower Michael Ruh

Coastal view of the north coast of New South Wales, Australia
The far north coast of New South Wales, Australia

My favourite place in the world is the far north coast of New South Wales, Australia, where my brother lives. It feels like paradise and home at the same time.

Michael Ruh mouthblown glass vessel
Michael Ruh

The Christmas present that I most enjoy giving is jewellery. I give the girls a piece each every year; something simple that they can keep for ever.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to, culturally and gastronomically, about the festive season is Christmas pudding. I always feel excited about the prospect of eating it on Christmas Day!

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration January 2018

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From My Cultural Life