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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Marcus Wareing, Tetsuya Wakuda and Peter Gilmore at the World Chef Showcase 2010

"Cooking is giving," says Tetsuya Wakuda during his presentation at the World Chef Showcase. Perhaps this is why he looks so earnest and eager-to-please.

The Contemporary Creative session featuring Tetsuya Wakuda, Peter Gilmore and Marcus Wareing was the first to sell-out, we're told. All three have internationally-acclaimed restaurants, yet despite their fierce culinary reputations, all are quiet, calm and gently spoken.

What does Contemporary Creative mean? If today's session is any indication, it's about celebrating the best produce you can find, treating each ingredient with respect, and plating each dish with microscopic attention-to-detail.

The 200-strong crowd is introduced to Tetsuya first. Is there a gentler chef than Tetsuya? Moving about the stage with Zen-like peacefulness, Tetsuya loves to crack the occasional joke, his eyes twinkling like a wise man who knows more than he tells.

Tetsuya Wakuda

Queensland scallops shavings wrapped around foie gras and fresh seaweed.

Tetsuya says he always defrosts scallops in salted water which helps the scallops retain their flavour. This dish tastes like scallops. "I guarantee it," he says.

Tetsuya Wakuda showing his scampi stock, made from scampi heads.

He adds about 50-60ml of extra virgin sesame oil (cold-pressed) for each litre of stock, which he says helps enhance the scampi flavour.

Poached spatchcock stuffed with foie gras

Throughout the session, Tetsuya emphasises the importance of supporting local suppliers. I love the way he resonates a genuine love for cooking and food, downplaying the pressure of recipes and encouraging each person to cook what they like, and to freely substitute what they have or prefer.

Salad of New Zealand scampi with junsai, tofu and goat's curd

Improve your cooking and you will improve your love life as well, he jokes. As he seasons a bowl of raw scampi for a salad, there's a gasp from the crowd as he uses a teaspoon to carefully add two mere drops of rice vinegar. He adds one single drop of soy. You cannot taste the soy, he says, but you will know it is there.

Peter Gilmore whipping egg whites by hand in a copper bowl

Precision is also present in the work of Peter Gilmore, head chef of Quay. Known for his love of gardening and use of heirloom variety vegetables, Peter frequently uses tweezers to construct each dish, an edible work of art inspired by nature. His use of wasabi flowers and native violets are a reminder to all of us that so many plants in nature are under-utilised. Peter estimates that 95-98 per cent of the ingredients in his kitchen are sourced from Australia.

Beet salad with pickled beetroot, beetroot chips, cooked French breakfast radishes, cherry bell radishes, baby red onions, blood sorrel, olive crumbs and brique pastry cigars filled with creme fraiche

The olive crumbs are made by soaking sourdough bread in Ligurian olive paste and then slowly drying the bread under heat lamps. The bread is sliced finely and then deep-fried and crumbled to make olive oil crumbs.

Butter lettuce hearts and poached lobster with tapioca pearls cooked in fish stock

Many of the ingredients are grown especially for him on a farm in the Blue Mountains, but he says if you grow your own herbs, you can harvest the flowers yourself most culinary herb flowers are edible. If you can eat the plant, you can eat the flower, he theorises.

Warm cherry cake with chocolate ganache, coconut cream, cherry compote, milk biscuit and white cherry ice cream

Audience tasting glass of the warm cherry cake dessert

The milk biscuits are made by frothing milk and glucose, scooping off the top and baking in a low oven for two to three hours.

Audience members and Star City chefs were all keen to get a photo of the completed dishes

Peter Gilmore's three demonstrated dishes

Peter Gilmore autographing his new cookbook Quay

Good Living editor Sue Bennett with Marcus Wareing

We don't get a chance to watch Marcus Wareing at work, but we do hear an in-depth interview with the man behind the two Michelin-starred restaurant, The Berkeley. It is inevitable that much of the discussion revolves around Gordon Ramsay, one of his earliest mentors. If you ever want to work on the ride of your life, work with Gordon, he says with a wry smile.

Classically trained, Marcus recognises that cooking techniques are changing. Food chemistry is being increasingly analysed, he says, and whilst he doesn't object to using sous vide, he is wary of it overtaking his kitchen. You need to have an element of tradition in your cooking.

Fine dining takes on a whole new meaning at The Berkeley where a team of 25 chefs and 62 staff serve 45 lunches and 65 dinners per day. There's a certain level of expectation when it comes to service, he admits, but customers must feel they had had a great experience when they walk away.

Marcus Wareing autographing his latest book Knife Skills

Elements of foraging are becoming increasingly popular on the world stage, he notes, but regardless of an ingredients scarcity or value, everything needs to be treasured. Just as Tetsuya delicately shaves a scallop into thin slices, and Peter cradles the heart of a butter lettuce, Marcus is equally reverent about the preciousness of all food.

A carrot is equal to foie gras, he points out. Both are great and both need to be treated with respect. We can't forget that.

Grab Your Fork attended the World Chef Showcase, a Crave Sydney International Food Festival feature event, as a reporter for SBS Food.

This article has been published on the SBS Food website - italicised text on this post has been added for readers of Grab Your Fork.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
SIFF 2010 - Cabramatta Allsorts Barbecue
SIFF 2010 - Fishing for a Difference at Etch, Sydney
SIFF 2010 - Malaysian Food Festival at the Grace Hotel, Sydney (runs until October 29, 2010)
11 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/16/2010 11:39:00 am


  • At 10/16/2010 1:32 pm, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    omgg!! watching tetsuya and peter cook must be mesmerising! so lucky that u could attend! did u get to eat the food?

  • At 10/16/2010 2:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    thats pretty awesome~! Sigh that this was in Sydney... hrmph

  • At 10/16/2010 2:56 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Tetsuya really does look like such a lovely man! The prize for prettiest dish has to go to Peter Gilmore, though... that beets dish is gorgeous!

  • At 10/16/2010 3:54 pm, Anonymous Trissa said…

    Sigh. I only attended the morning session. Wanted to go to this so I tried to sneak in but was caught with Kath! At least now I know what I missed! A lot!

  • At 10/16/2010 5:24 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Compared to the heat and pressure that we normally know a kitchen to be, it is quite refreshing to see how calming chefs can be with their simple philosophies towards food.

  • At 10/17/2010 1:03 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OOOhhh what a smörgåsbord of awesomeness! Lucky get to see those 2 in action!

    That iphone photo is tripping me out! Cant get my head round the angles...

  • At 10/17/2010 8:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Loved the scallops defrosting in saltwater tips. I'm no where near Sydney (in Ottawa, Canada!) but that's certainly a trick I can apply the multiple bags of Atlantic scallops currently in my freezer.

  • At 10/17/2010 2:46 pm, Anonymous Celeste @ Berrytravels said…

    In awe of all the amazing dishes! I'd give a lot to be able to watch Tetsuya cook. That man is a genius.

  • At 10/18/2010 1:41 pm, Anonymous Tina said…

    That's exciting stuff Helen! Great post :)

  • At 10/20/2010 7:37 pm, Blogger Viv said…

    yeah tetsuya does seem like a gentle man with the twinkling eyes lol. you write for SBS? that's awesome...i do love the way you write in your posts...seems so natural for you!

  • At 10/22/2010 4:46 pm, Anonymous Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said…

    Great post - what a treat to be in the company of such lauded chefs!


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