Food bloggers. What do they know about cooking in a commercial kitchen?
As of last night, four Sydney food bloggers found out a whole lot more, after gaining access to the other side of the pass at Bistro CBD
when they were enlisted to cook dinner for 70 paying guests.
The Food Bloggers' Dinner
was a brave initiative by Merivale
, who agreed to let four amateur cooks into their kitchen as part of their Feast for the Senses winter promotion.
"Merivale is turning the tables and putting four outspoken food bloggers into Bistro CBD's kitchen to see how well they can cook up a five-course dinner. Come along to sample their best efforts and critique the critics if you dare. One course will be prepared by Bistro CBD."
Diners paid $60 per person for five courses which included a glass of sparkling.
A Feast for the Senses Bloggers' Dinner
Tickets for this unique event sold out in an instant. Who wouldn't want to see food bloggers rattling the pans in a commercial kitchen? The food blogging community turned out in force with 21 food bloggers there to support their friends and compatriots. We heard whispers of dish development, read tweets of excitement, and arrived on a rainy evening that felt more like a one-off theatre production.
Patrons at the Merivale Feast for the Senses food bloggers' dinner
I'd never seen the four food bloggers look so intense when I finally spied them in the kitchen. We waved hello and some waved back, but for the most part, they were in The Zone.
Sashimi of kingfish, avocado, wasabi, lime and soft herbs
by Simun Dragicevich, Bistro CBD
Bistro CBD head chef Simun Dragicevich
kicked off proceedings with a sashimi of kingfish
, the delicate slivers of kingfish sliced cleanly and smoothly. I loved the clean fresh flavours, notes of citrus and the sensual texture of the kingfish, although I did wish there was more of the avocado and wasabi puree.
Our menus included profile blurbs written by each food blogger.
The Kassab tribe is one of two remaining families in the Middle east making traditional shawarmas. As the eldest of 11 brothers, Fouad was to continue the tradition of exceptional kebab making. But Fouad was outcast by his great-grandfather when he tried to use chilli sauce in the experimental kitchen. Put to sea in a small boat, Fouad reached the shores of Western Australia in 2001. He now dreams of building an empire through The Food Blog
in the hope fame will reconcile him with his family
Shish Barak - a Middle Eastern- style dumpling
Fouad's Shish Barak Middle Eastern-style dumplings married elegance with Lebanese flavours. These dumplings have their origins in Persia and traditionally use a thick skin pastry. Fouad wrapped these lamb mince parcels in gyoza sheets instead, which gave a superb and lasting crispness when deep-fried.
The thin yoghurt soup provided the acidity to offset the richness of this dish, and a generous handful of pine nuts added crunch.
A web designer/photographer by day, Billy Law is also an avid Sydney food blogger. He shares his dining experiences around the world through his food blog A Table for Two. Born and bred in Malaysia, Billy has lived in Australia since 1996. Billy counts himself lucky to have been exposed to many kinds of exotic cuisines. As a passionate food enthusiast, Billy strongly believes we should try everything once.
'Pork you!" twice cooked pork belly
The striking presentation of Billy's twice cooked pork belly was remarked upon by everyone. A paintbrush path of beetroot jus, in a brilliant fire engine red, was slicked across the plate. A trail of apple gel, cubes of cooked beetroot, and a soil of crumbled black pudding led to a doorstop of succulent pork belly. The pork was marinated, braised and then fried upside down in oil to crisp the skin.
Making crackling for 70 plates was always going to be a tough ask, but the meat itself was soft, sweet and tender. I wanted more black pudding too and enjoyed the range of contrasting flavours and textures.
Back in 2008, Karen Low launched her food blog, Citrus and Candy
, because she always had more fun talking about food than writing essays on Cicero. Though this self-confessed history nerd will always have a special place for her favourite subject, nothing gets her blood flowing more than the taste of desserts, European cuisines, comfort food and classic home cooking. Today, her blog focuses on cooking and baking.
Braised beef in Pedro Ximenez sherry
As the rain pelted against the windows during dinner, braised beef in Pedro Ximenez sherry could not have been a more perfect choice for comfort food weather. Beef cheeks were slow-cooked to the point that a knife was not even required - a mere push with a fork caused the meat to fall apart with a sigh. Gelatinous, sticky and rich, a dollop of cauliflower puree was faintly nutty and silky smooth.
Drug dealer by day, baker by night... Linda is a busy pharmacist who seeks cooking and baking as stress-relieving outlets. She documents her successes and failures on a food blog called eatshowandtell
. Growing up in multicultural south-western Sydney, she developed an appreciation of food from all cultures, especially desserts. This, along with inspiration from pastry chefs Sherry Yard, Katrina Kanetani and Yu-Ching Lee
, has led her on a never-ending journey of improving her baking.
'This and That'
Linda is a mean baker, and by that I mean she will allow nothing to stand between her and the perfect dessert. 'This and That' is a tribute to the desserts she loves and the pastry chefs she admires.
The chocolate brownie brulee cake was a layer of dense chocolate brownie topped with chocolate mousse, a chocolate ganache and salt flakes. To the left sat a scoop of lemon olive oil cream, nestled on a bed of brown sugar almond crumble and a streak of rhubarb jam. A garnish of brandy snap was butter, crisp and sweet.
The richness of the dessert was tempered by the smooth olive oil ice cream -- gently zingy with lemon -- and the tartness of rhubarb jam. Salt crystals added another dimension to the chocolate, and the number of the components on this dish was staggering and impressive.
Geeky Photographers (Advanced) - use an iPad as a light source
Did I mention how bad the lighting was at our table? I ended up taking most of my photos at the bar or at the pass, but more entrepreneurial food bloggers take matters (and technology) into their own hands. The backlight of an iPad works wonders for illuminating a dish otherwise in the dark.
Overall it was a fascinating and insightful evening, both as a diner and as a food blogger. There is no doubt that chefs have one of the most difficult and undervalued and underpaid jobs. They produce edible art that must be consistent, whilst multi-tasking against the clock.
MasterChef Australia may have garnered thousands of fans with cooking ambitions, but the harsh reality of a commercial kitchen is more stressful than any "pressure test" methinks.
Well done to Fouad, Billy, Karen and Linda. Your efforts were nothing short of spectacular.
Toward the end of service Billy, Fouad, Karen and Linda
Billy, Fouad, Simun Dragicevich, Linda and Karen
Last night was also the final night of service for Bistro CBD. After 16 years of service, Bistro CBD will close its doors and reopen as BiSTRODE CBD with Jeremy Strode at the helm around mid-August. Simun Dragicevich will be opening his own restaurant shortly.
Level 1, 52 King Street Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9240 3000