Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Young chefs and waiters Whet Your Appetite

In an industry that’s already doing it tough, spare a thought for the younger generation of hospitality that hasn’t necessarily worked through the good times and yet are still giving up their social lives to be part of the industry that feeds us.

Young chefs and front-of-house staff, essentially the next generation of restaurateurs, are celebrated in the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence national awards program, which is focused on the younger hospitality-working generation.

Jay Lee (Mosaic Restaurant) and Sarah Knights (Uccello) at work for the
Electrolux Appetite for Excellence ‘Whet Your Appetite’ pop-up dinner,
Electrolux showroom, Mascot
With a judging line-up of esteemed Australian chefs and restaurateurs, Appetite for Excellence is a globally-recognised program that culminates in an industry awards night and winners participating in further educational and competitive arenas.

Plating dishes for the Whet Your Appetite dinner
Ahead of the 2012 awards night, Appetite for Excellence finalists staged a pop-up restaurant at the Electrolux showroom in Mascot; an aptly-named precursor called ‘Whet Your Appetite’ showcasing the skills of a number of program finalists.

Small Acres ‘Cyder’
Attendees were started on Young Henrys’ Newtown-made natural lager or Small Acres dry sparkling ‘Cyder’ from Orange in the airy Electrolux space, with the open kitchen revealing some very in-control chefs. Finalists in the Young Waiters category trawled the floor, topping up and chatting with guests.

We had the pleasure of conversation with Alexander Tuckett from Pilu at Freshwater, whose easy-going and personable nature seemed made for a restaurant floor and less so for a rugby field.

Shortcrust tart of veal, apple and watercress
Canapés doing the rounds included an audible veal tart with apple and presumably pop rocks-amid a vivid green watercress puree.

There was also a completely scoff-worthy Scotch egg of smoked eel and quail that didn’t last long enough for a picture.

Pulled rabbit, pear chutney, brioche
The brioche sandwich of pulled rabbit and pear chutney might well have been my first taste of rabbit, but it was an utterly divine and well-balanced couple of mouthfuls.

Fish and chips, tartare sauce
Sitting down to the two long tables set up in the showroom, we had fish and chips like never before: in a long, cracker shape served with a spot-on tartare sauce.

There were deep-fried crumbs, a familiar fishiness and powdered mash potato in the mix somewhere that completely turned fish and chips on its appetiser head.

Beetroot cured ocean trout, horseradish mayonnaise, fennel salad and dill kipfler potatoes
Two white wines accompanied our striking entrée: a 2011 Helm Riesling and an all-natural Dandy in the Clos ‘no boundaries’ which had to have been a blend of Hunter Valley whites. The latter was impressively fruity on the nose and acidic at first taste but I gradually warmed to it over the dry Riesling.

The shared platter salad featured a bed of sliced fennel, with beet crimson-dyed ocean trout pieces scattered about, all dressed with a zingy horseradish mayonnaise. There were also quenelles of dill-heavy crushed potato, bulking out the salad in style.

Pot roast pork neck with lotus root, sweet potato and wilted greens
There was some disbelief partnered with excitement when the main platters arrived to the table, accompanied with either the 2007 Even Keel Merlot or 2010 Eden Road “The Long Road” Shiraz. The size of the pork neck pieces was incredible and would have sated any carnivorous appetite.

Pot roast pork neck with wilted greens and jus
I landed myself a mega-sized portion, with ginger stir-fried Chinese greens trying to offset the meat ratio.

Thin chips of sweet potato and lotus root, the latter gorgeously decorative, added colour and texture to the well-caramelised, tender pork neck – although there was some variation in doneness between pieces, in addition to the variable sizes.

Chatter up and down the long tables was at a highly friendly level, as six varieties of booze might hint at, while project director Phee Gardner stopped by for a chat about the program and the finalists that she’s obviously very proud of.

Roasted grain ice cream with pancetta powder, parmesan and sweet persimmon
The room’s noise level seemed to come down noticeably for desserts, with all and sundry intrigued with the ice cream that arrived beneath a shower of grated parmesan cheese – although my serving was more like a storm than a light sprinkle of cheese.

Appropriately served with a none-too-sweet (for a sticky, anyway) 2010 Lark Hill Auslese Riesling, the soft roasted grain ice cream hid a mild persimmon compote and was garnished with dried persimmon bits and a savoury crumb featuring pancetta, in addition to the cheese.

I felt that the cheese overwhelmed the dessert, which could have used a lot more sweetness to combat the unusual and various savoury components.

At the night’s end, it was lovely to acknowledge all the young faces in the kitchen and on the floor and wish them well for the program – they’d certainly whet my appetite for watching their promising futures ahead.

Food, booze and shoes attended the Whet Your Appetite event as a guest, with thanks to Sarah Mason PR.


Simon Leong said...

that Fish and chips starter looks very different. would have loved to try that one.

sugarpuffi said...

really want to try the pulled rabbit!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Everything looks so creative and delicious :)

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

Definitely have to applaud all the young chefs that partook on this. Everything looks amazing. Very well presented and flavours sound awesome!

Tina said...

Hi Simon - That was definitely a highlight of the night,so unique!

Hi sugarpuffi - Yeah, I'm never quite game enough to try rabbit ;) but I suppose it's not that common either.

Hi Lorraine - Yep, these kids have some serious talent..!

Hi Tina - Yeah, and they were all great sports in getting around to talk to people and all.


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