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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Food Bloggers' Dinner - taking over the kitchen at Bistro CBD

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
(first course)

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
(second course)

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 belly
'Pork you!" twice cooked pork belly
(third course)

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
(fourth course)

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.

Plating dessert

'This and That'
by Linda from www.eatshowandtell.com
(fifth course)

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.

iPad illumination night photography
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
51 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/29/2010 03:45:00 am


  • At 7/29/2010 4:27 am, Anonymous Yas (aboutthefood) said…

    Sounds like they stacked up remarkably well! What a fantastic idea and such great dishes. Great work!

  • At 7/29/2010 4:36 am, Blogger trashtastika.com said…

    Wish I'd gone - the food looks awesome!!

  • At 7/29/2010 8:01 am, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Thanks for the awesome review Helen. Job well done to all the blogger chefs of the night!!

  • At 7/29/2010 8:15 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    haha damn that was fast! awesome night and the food was freaking awesome

  • At 7/29/2010 8:34 am, Blogger Shanks said…

    Awesome coverage and photos Helen. Congrats to Billy, Fouad, Karen & Linda on an spectacular job and waving our little food blogging flag with pride!!

  • At 7/29/2010 8:48 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    great post about the night. good to see what they all cooked up. i would have though Citrus and Candy would have done a dessert since her blog is so much about amazing desserts she cooks. i think billy and pork crackling are meant to be — seems to be his signature dish at many of his cook ups. fouad's dish looks very interesting. photographing at the pass is probably the best source of light at CBD Bistro or alternatively going into the kitchen :-) i look forward to hearing about Simun's new kitchen adventure.

  • At 7/29/2010 9:04 am, Anonymous Zina @ tastedbytwo said…

    Well done guys! The dishes look amazing. Did anyone tape the session? It would've made great TV!

  • At 7/29/2010 9:17 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    Helen you're a machine! Love the way you wrote it up, great shots especially of the guys in the kitchen

  • At 7/29/2010 9:21 am, Anonymous linda said…

    Thank you so much for the great write up. For me, the best part of the night was seeing all the plates come back clean =D

  • At 7/29/2010 9:22 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is fast but I am not complaining. All the foods look good.

  • At 7/29/2010 9:45 am, Blogger Cathy x. said…

    beef braised in px.. if i'm not mistaken, that's a dish straight from the menu at movida..?

  • At 7/29/2010 9:49 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I adore the vibrancy of the beetroot in Billy's dish! And even though I'm not normally into chocolate desserts, that looks rich and amazing. What a fun idea!!

  • At 7/29/2010 10:09 am, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    GOSH! All the plates look absolutely fantastic! Well done to all the guys. What a great experience :)

  • At 7/29/2010 10:13 am, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Man you are so fast!! It was such an awesome dinner, kudos for all four fantastic bloggers!

    btw, my pictures came out nothing like yours even with the iPad LOL

  • At 7/29/2010 10:14 am, Anonymous A said…

    how did you manage to eat all that after youre epic lunch?!

  • At 7/29/2010 10:26 am, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    Wow! Quick one you are. What a fantastic night had by all and well done to the foodbloggers for serving up something wonderful for all; you did us proud.

  • At 7/29/2010 10:44 am, Blogger April @ My Food Trail said…

    Wow, what an awesome effort by the food bloggers! I would have loved to be at the dinner. It'll be interesting to read the food blogger's reviews of the food bloggers, but I'm sure they'll all be biased and supportive! :) Great wrap up of the event!

  • At 7/29/2010 10:49 am, Blogger Sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    Wow talk about speedy!!! What a fantastic night with amazing food, the guys were awesome.

  • At 7/29/2010 11:14 am, Blogger Monica ^o^ said…

    Amazing ! Well done everyone :)
    I'm surprised to hear that Bistro CBD is closing down, I have enjoyed my meals there :(

  • At 7/29/2010 11:29 am, Blogger A Table For Two said…

    I can sense you are going to raid the 7-11 for some Mother after charging through the night to write up this post! :)

    Thanks Helen for coming and support us! I'm just glad there was no big disaster in the kitchen and still managed to push all 70 dishes out. I agree with you, full respect to the chefs who has to do this 7 days a week.

  • At 7/29/2010 11:29 am, Anonymous Rhonda (thedaintybaker) said…

    I wish I was there! All the dishes looked so beautiful and delicious! Great coverage & photography!

  • At 7/29/2010 11:38 am, Anonymous lili said…

    Looks FABULOUS. Thank you so much for posting this so quickly, I am totally bummed that I wasn't about to be there. Congrats to all the bloggers for putting together what looks like a totally amazing dinner.

  • At 7/29/2010 11:41 am, Anonymous Jacq said…

    Man Helen you're quick! Nice photos and thank god for Yas' ipad to provide some much needed light on that table =D (see, it is so much more than a big iphone LOL) Food was amazing, awesome job guys!

  • At 7/29/2010 11:55 am, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Congrats to the food-bloggers on producing such a professional-looking meal! I didn't realise it was Bistro CBD's last night, but what a fitting finale.

  • At 7/29/2010 11:57 am, Blogger Fouad @ The Food Blog said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 7/29/2010 12:02 pm, Blogger Fouad @ The Food Blog said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 7/29/2010 12:02 pm, Blogger Fouad @ The Food Blog said…

    Were you writing before the evening started? I think you managed to bend space and time there hehehe. Thanks so much for coming and I'm so happy you enjoyed yourself. It's such hard work, but so much fun too! All us food bloggers really appreciate your support guys!

  • At 7/29/2010 12:20 pm, Anonymous Trissa said…

    I missed this one! But judging from how good the food looks, I'm sure there will be a round two! And thanks for the ipad tip as well!

  • At 7/29/2010 12:56 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Wow Helen, awesome speedy work and thanks for a great post. Amazing pics!

    Simon Food Favourites - LOL I guess I wanted to show that I can cook as well as bake? :)

    Cathy X - I've tasted many fantastic versions of this dish on this side of Oz, including Movida's (which btw, is amazing and a lot more rich than mine) so yup, this dish was very much inspired by all of them. This night was very much about cooking what we love to eat :)

  • At 7/29/2010 1:38 pm, Anonymous thang @ noodlies said…

    wow, our very own masterchefs, well done everyone!

  • At 7/29/2010 2:00 pm, Anonymous ladyironchef said…

    wow wow wow! congrats to all four of you, this is totally cool! and linda is wearing Billy's ironchef tee! hehe

    Helen u are really fast at getting the post up :D

  • At 7/29/2010 3:46 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Woah, speedy wrap up of a fabulous evening! And gosh, it really was so, so dark...so much so that I couldn't see all that I was eating =p

  • At 7/29/2010 5:17 pm, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    A big sigh of relief and achievement for the bloggers. Well done guys! I was expecting to see hats & cummerbuns! Shame you were sat at such a dark table, I would have cried! Good on you for getting pics at the pass. Stunning food.

  • At 7/29/2010 5:21 pm, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    helen ur posts pop up faster than lightning! great photo and literature as usual. the food looks fantastic! thumbs up for karen, billy, linda and fouad. excellent job guys

  • At 7/29/2010 6:09 pm, Anonymous xssat said…

    Wow! I'm so impressed, every course looked amazing, but I particularly liked the presentation of Billy's dish. Nom nom nom!

  • At 7/29/2010 7:16 pm, Blogger Rah said…

    Such a nice change to see a restaurant take a positive approach to food bloggers, instead of just bitching about them
    Nice one, guys!

  • At 7/29/2010 8:32 pm, Blogger Ibyang said…

    i would have participated in this had i known sooner. but great to read the story and drool over your great photographs. :)

  • At 7/29/2010 10:00 pm, Anonymous NADZ said…

    Sounded like a great night and the dishes look divine!!

  • At 7/29/2010 10:14 pm, Anonymous Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Lex used his iphone to get more light to take photos! haha.. I like the ipad use though! Everything was soo good last night, I was so impressed!!

  • At 7/30/2010 1:16 am, Anonymous Denea Buckingham said…

    Well done everybody! The dishes were gorgeous and you all put your money where your mouths are (pun intended).

    Wish I could have been there but I'll make sure to be at the next one.
    Which should totally be called "The Bloggers Strike Back"

  • At 7/30/2010 3:31 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Wow they did well! We did a bloggers dinner in London but there were about 30 of us helping - not the pressure of just 4. What a great night.

  • At 7/30/2010 10:05 am, Blogger Anna (Morsels and Musings) said…

    clearly i'm out of the loop these days!
    what an amazing effort, and bravery too. glad they shined :)

  • At 7/30/2010 1:55 pm, Anonymous realityraver said…

    Wow that looked great, I wish I had known about it. What an amazing evening.

  • At 7/30/2010 4:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Speedy speedy Helen! Awesome awesome dinner mmm!

  • At 7/30/2010 8:57 pm, Anonymous Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said…

    Great unique take on the night - very different and refreshing to the others I've read. Good work on getting those photos in the poor lighting too!

  • At 8/02/2010 12:16 pm, Anonymous J2Kfm said…

    A great concept this one. Thanks for sharing the experience, good to see some culinary skills being practised and perfected here.

  • At 8/03/2010 5:15 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas - They did an incredible job.

    Hi the fashionate traveller - Tickets sold out really fast, but I think there'd be a lot of public interest if more events like this were scheduled.

    Hi Angie - It was a fantastic effort. Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Hi chocolatesuze - The food was amazing, and I don't think I was as fast as the production line that evening!

    Hi Shanks - Thank you :) And yes the guys were awesome. I take my hat off to them.

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - Heh, looks like Karen has already responded to your comment, but yes, both Karen and Linda are both amazing pastry cooks.

    Hi Zina - No taping, I'm afraid. It would have been great to see some time lapse coverage of all the prep work behind-the-scenes!

    Hi Minh - Haha, I think I have a virus. I must've been bad company at the table as I kept disappearing to take photos, but glad I managed to get a few shots of them in action!

    Hi Linda - I think all your plates may have been licked clean :) Your dish was spectacular. So much hard work and effort was not unnoticed.

    Hi Ellie - lol. Always lovely to have appreciative readers :) It was a memorable evening.

    Hi Cathy - I'd love to try that dish - must schedule a visit to Melbourne again soon!

    Hi Hannah - Billy's presentation was exquisite but then, I would never expect anything less. I can't believe you're not into chocolate desserts but sometimes purity is best, right? :)

    Hi Penny - It was an incredible evening. I think everyone in the room was proud of their efforts.

  • At 8/03/2010 5:27 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas - Your photos turned out great, and haha, I think iPad should update their features list to include "photograhic light source".

    Hi A - It takes commitment and training :)

    Hi Phuoc'n Delicious - There was a lot of love in the room that night. They did a fantastic job.

    Hi April - lol. I think for a first-time effort in a commercial kitchen, they did very well. Perhaps a Melbourne version could happen too?

    Hi Sara - It was such a lovely evening and such a pleasure to finally meet Junior too!

    Hi Monica - I don't think anyone else realised that Bistro CBD was closing that evening until it was announced either. Will be curious to see what the new Bistrode looks like.

    Hi A Table for Two - Haha, how did you know. I had Mother for breakfast, and as luck would have it, it was the $1 day!

    It was such a great insight, even from the sidelines, to watch you guys in the lead-up to, and during the dinner service. Cheffing is definitely a tough job - I much prefer the eating side!

    Hi Rhonda - Glad you enjoyed the post. It was such a great night.

    Hi lili - It was a shame you couldn't be there, but hopefully the photos helped :)

    Hi Jacq - Ha, I thought it was hilarious when I got back to the table and saw the iPad in action. Clever thinking!

    Hi OohLookBel - I thought it was a lovely finale and I agree, the meals all looked very professional. Kudos to their efforts with research and overall professionalism.

  • At 8/03/2010 5:42 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Fouad - Haha, I wish! There's no bending of space or time, just a new revelation in the amount of sleep one can apparently survive on. lol.

    We all appreciated your hard work. You should all be rightly proud. A great job by all!

    Hi Trissa - The food was sensational and hmm, I wonder if anything will be organised for SIFF? Am sure things will be publicised if a similar event transpires!

    Hi Karen - Thanks for your responses. Your beef cheeks were fantastic, and that mash was divine!

    Hi thang - Haha, masterchefs indeed. Except no dodgy beaded curtain. Or plate dropping. lol

    Hi ladyironchef - Well spotted re: the ironchef tee! And yes, sometimes I do question my own craziness sometimes. lol

    Hi mademoiselle delicieuse - Haha we definitely had the darkest table in the entire restaurant. The irony!

    Hi John - Hats and cummerbuns? lol. The darkness was a challenge for everything but everyone coped surprisingly well.

    Hi sugarpuffi - Haha, hopefully no thunder with the lightning either :)

    Hi xssat - Billy's dish was beautifully plated. Lots of workshopping of ideas for that one!

    Hi Laura - I agree, it's always refreshing and much appreciated when restaurants and food bloggers collaborate together :)

    Hi lbyang - The event was hugely popular but glad you were enjoy the evening vicariously :)

    Hi NADZ - It was a very memorable evening and the dishes were all so well put together.

    Hi Betty - Haha, I love the resourcefulness of food bloggers!

    Hi Denea - Would be great to see another event like this.

    Hi Gourmet Chick - The four did have assistance from the kitchen but the development and executive was primarily driven by them. They have my utmost respect for the way the entire evening went so smoothly.

    Hi Anna - lol. I think the tickets were gone in an instant. They did a stellar job!

    Hi realityraver - It was a fantastic night. Who knows - hopefully there'll be another one!

    Hi FFichiban - lol. I think I was just so excited about the night I wanted to share it asap :)

    Hi Forager - Aww thanks so much, and funny you say that because mine was the first one up. lol. I did use some resourcefulness in relocating my plate to the bar which had better lighting :)

    Hi J2Kfm - The guys did an incredible job. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • At 1/17/2011 8:09 pm, Blogger Miss Feathers said…

    Sounds fab. I wish I was there. Hopefully- there will be a next time!

  • At 6/04/2011 9:23 pm, Blogger jasna varcakovic said…

    Great post!!!...as always!


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