At My Table: Florist Sean Cook


Sean Cook of Sydney florist Mr Cook shares his top entertaining tips – and favourite recipes – for a superb Sunday dinner.

Florist Sean Cook is a master entertainer. A lover of food and flowers from way back, Cook regularly tries out new recipes on his circle of friends, among whom he is the established chef. “I’m rarely invited to other people’s houses,” he laughs. “I enjoy having guests. I like to be a generous host – for people to have a great time and walk away full.” Gatherings take place at his florist shop in Sydney’s Double Bay, which Cook also hires out. “I make a big splash when I entertain,” he says. “Friends have told me that when they get an invitation from me, they cancel everything else. I go all out.”


The dream guest list

I would invite… “People from the music, film and art worlds: late artists Keith Haring – he’d have great stories from New York in the 1980s – and Francis Bacon, because I admire and love his work, and he was a great drinker and bon vivant; Kylie Minogue and Michael Hutchence, circa 1989 – they’d be an interesting couple; Quentin Tarantino – I’m a movie buff; and Tilda Swinton, to bring glamour and sophistication. Today, I’ve invited some of my closest friends: Matthew Bright, Andrew Lehmann, Penny Culliton, Andrew Johnson and Irene Crothers.”



 A floral statement

“I usually just bring home whatever is left in the shop. For my last dinner, I had three stems of fully blown peonies cut down short in individual vases. They were a hit.”



Entertaining tips

Plan ahead
“There’s nothing worse than your guests arriving and you’re getting dressed or peeling the vegetables. Whenever I decide I’m having a dinner party, I love to go through all my cookbooks and magazines trying to find the right recipe, and I make lots of lists.”

Make an effort
“If you’re inviting people to your house, bring out your best china, your best napkins and tablecloth (iron it), and polish the silver.”

Create a playlist
“One that’s ready to go from as soon as your guests arrive until the last person leaves, so you’re not getting up and down to change the music.”

Have drinks ready for guests on arrival
“Throw a drink straight into their hands. Preferably Champagne. My partner Matthew and I have an unwritten rule that he looks after the wine and cocktails and I look after the food.”

Serve an amazing dessert
“If your main is a disaster, it’ll be forgotten if followed by a spectacular dessert. That’s the first thing I decide on when I’m having a dinner party – something like a bombe Alaska or a three-tiered chocolate pavlova with berries.”

Switch the scenery
“Start with drinks in your garden; move inside for dinner, then maybe move to another room for dessert and coffee.”



Guest etiquette

Don’t arrive with flowers
“If you like to give flowers, send them the day before or the day after. It can put your host in a bit of a spin if they suddenly need to find a vase. If you wish to take a gift, Champagne is always well received.”

Don’t arrive early or late
“I have a friend who notoriously arrives very early. I tell her a different time to the other guests.”

RSVP properly
“Whether it’s yes or no – it’s courteous.”



Rack of pork with fresh fig & Marsala sauce

Serves 8

1 x 8-cutlet rack of pork, French trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sea salt flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
20g butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup Marsala
5 ripe figs

Preheat oven to 220°C. Use a sharp knife to score pork rind; rub with oil. Combine salt and fennel seeds, then rub over rind.

Place pork rind-side up in a roasting pan. Roast for 45 minutes or until rind crackles. Reduce to 180°C and roast for a further 30 minutes or until juices run clear. Transfer to a chopping board. Keep warm.

Drain fat from pan, leaving 1 tablespoon. Add butter and stir over a medium heat until melted. Sprinkle flour over and cook, stirring with a whisk, for 1 minute or until brown and bubbling. Gradually add chicken stock and Marsala, whisking constantly until well-combined mixture comes to the boil and sauce thickens slightly. Strain through a fine sieve into a small saucepan.

Roughly chop 4 figs and add to sauce. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until fig breaks down and sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper. (If sauce becomes too thick, whisk in a little more chicken stock.) Transfer sauce to a serving bowl. Tear remaining fig up and arrange on sauce. Serve pork with sauce and green beans with tarragon butter.

Green beans with tarragon & lemon butter

Serves 8

125g butter, softened
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1 lemon, rind grated and 1 tablespoon juice
750g green beans, trimmed, sliced lengthways
¼ cup toasted flaked almonds

Combine butter, tarragon, rind and juice. Season. Spoon along centre of a sheet of baking paper and shape into a 12cm-long log. Roll up and twist ends of paper to seal. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.

Cook beans in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes or until bright green and tender-crisp. Drain and return to pan.

Cut butter into 1cm slices. Toss 2-3 slices with beans. Add almonds and toss. Serve. (Freeze leftover butter for up to 2 months.)linebreak


Chocolate-vino cotto pavlova

Serves 8

6 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1½ cups caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 tablespoon Dutch cocoa
1 tablespoon vino cotto
600ml thickened cream
2 x 125g punnets raspberries
2 x 125g punnets blackberries
1 pomegranate, quartered, seeds removed

Preheat oven to 150°C. Line 2 trays with baking paper. Draw a 20cm disc on each.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggwhites and salt in a clean, dry bowl until firm peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition, until sugar dissolves and mixture is thick and glossy. Add cornflour, cocoa and vino cotto, and beat until well combined.

Spoon evenly among prepared discs and smooth surfaces. Bake for 1 hour or until meringue is crisp. Turn off oven. Leave in oven, with door ajar, to cool completely.

Whisk cream until soft peaks form. Place one meringue on a serving platter. Spoon half of cream over. Top with half of berries and pomegranate. Top with remaining meringue, cream, berries and pomegranate.


All images copyright photographer Brett Stevens
Text: Lisa Thomas
Stylist: Glen Proebstel
Recipes/food producer: Dixie Elliott

See Vogue Living April 2013 for the rest of Sean’s recipes. On news stands and on Zinio now.

11 Responses to “At My Table: Florist Sean Cook”
  1. Jade Spadina says:

    What a delightful post. Thanks for the recipes – I must try that pavlova.

  2. OMG … I am going to do the pavlova, get a chic dark grey table cloth and generally ‘Sean it up’. Beautiful.

  3. La Musa says:

    Absolutely amazing!


  4. Diane says:

    That is the most stunningly beautiful table setting I have ever seen! I’m totally inspired!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] draw much inspiration from these beautiful arrangements… Don’t forget the dessert! This article in the April issue of Australia’s Vogue Living is rather excellent, offering excellent advice […]

  2. […] Recipe courtesy of Australia Vogue Living – April 2013 […]

  3. […] grabbed from At My Table: Florist Sean Cook for The Australian Vogue Livng Blog | Gucci Resort 2013 via | Gucci Fall 2011 RTW via […]

  4. […] grabbed from At My Table: Florist Sean Cook for The Australian Vogue Livng Blog | Gucci Resort 2013 via | Gucci Fall 2011 RTW via […]

  5. […] issue of Vogue Living & is, I believe, one of Sydney florist Sean Cook’s own.  Click here for the link to the original article – the images are […]

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