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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Crave SIFF: BBQ Madness and World Chef Showcase with Mauro Colagreco, Mark Best and David Lebowitz

You couldn't miss them. Two whole lambs spinning slowly over a charcoal, the skin slowly blistering to a deep golden hue. They'd been on the barbecue since 5am, we were told, tended carefully by chef David Tsireka of Xanthi. By the time they were carved for eating, they would have been slow-cooked for six glorious hours.

The Crave Sydney International Food Festival started off with a bang last Saturday, with Barbecue Madness events held simultaneously in suburbs all over Sydney. Despite some ominous weather reports, the sunshine held for much for the day. We found Pyrmont Growers Market packed with happy shoppers and plenty of pooches.

Cheeses from Formaggi Ocello

Rare breed pulled pork rolls with beetroot slaw $8.50
by Darren Robertson (ex-Tetsuya's) of The Table Sessions guerilla dining

Macaron gift boxes by SWEETNESS The Patisserie $24 for eight

Lamb on the spit

We make a quick tour of the markets but really we only have eyes for the lamb.

David Tsirekas of Xanthi dispensing lighter fluid Zivana

There's a jovial mood in the barbecue tent, particularly when David Tsirekas comes around to each table offering us all plastic cups of Zivana, a potent Cypriot spirit similar to raki.

Slow roasted lamb with cress and egg $20

Tickets for the barbecue meal cost $20, with different dishes offered for each half-hour service. The roast lambs are carved up for the final session, and though the meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender and succulent, most diners around us seem a little taken aback by the small portion size -- even with the bread roll and spring water on the side.

Crispy lamb skin

World Chef Showcase

Mauro Colagreco from Mirazur in Menton, France with session host Simon Marnie

We move onto the afternoon session of the World Chef Showcase, relocated from Star City in previous years to the conference rooms at the Hilton. Program Three was labelled "France and Beyond", starting with Mauro Colagreco from Mirazur in Menton, France. He received his first Michelin star in 2006.

Mauro's Italian-Argentine background is evident in the passionate and emphatic way he speaks about food. His restaurant, Mirazur, sits on the French Riviera, about thirty metres from the border of Italy. His unique location gives him access to a wide array of produce and plenty of land for his restaurant gardens. He estimates he uses about 250 different herbs and flowers throughout the seasons. He grows most of them. About 100 of them are wild herbs which he finds in the local forest.

Tomato martini

Mauro grows 30 different tomatoes in his restaurant garden. Today he demonstrates three tomato dishes, including a tomato martini with clear tomato water, made by slowly draining fresh tomatoes overnight through a sieve.

Mark Best from Marque demonstrating his dish of tomberry with chocolate jelly and vanilla

There are always plenty of laughs when Mark Best is on stage, delivering sardonic wit with trademark seriousness. Mark emphasises the importance of layering flavours in dishes, creating "fettucine" from celeriac and using mustard, mustard seeds and mustard flowers to create multiple flavour notes.

His dish for sampling uses a tomberry -- a made-up name coined by one his chefs which has since stuck -- created by compressing cured cherry tomatoes in strawberry syrup. It's served with a rich chocolate jelly, creme fraiche and a shard of raspberry tuile. The tuile is made with freeze-dried raspberry powder, fondant and isomalt.

David Lebowitz

The highlight session is undoubtedly David Lebowitz who easily wins over the crowd with his natural warmth and self-deprecating sense of humour. I'd met David in the hotel lobby at the Intercontinental two days earlier, and after following his blog for so many years, I felt remarkably at ease introducing myself to him "in real life". He was still jet-lagged from his flight and said he was nervous about his upcoming talk, but he shouldn't be so modest - he's a natural.

David explained that he initially started his blog as a way of allowing people to ask his questions about his recipes. "You should be careful what you ask for," he laughed, as he soon discovered a tidal wave of people leaving comments and feedback. "Usually people are nice," he said, "but not everyone is nice. But that's okay because I'm not always nice either."

Chocolate orbit cake with candied peanuts and salted butter caramel sauce

David demonstrates his chocolate orbit cake, a dessert he originally called the Chocolate Idiot Cake due to its fool-proof nature. Due to political correctness, he wasn't allowed to call it that in the eventuating cook book, instead calling it the chocolate orbit cake as one of his friends said the dimpled surface reminded him of the moon.

The chocolate orbit cake is rich and dense, and best eaten with small dabs of double cream. The salted butter caramel sauce is worth savouring on its own but it's the candied salted peanuts that gets everyone murmuring their appreciation. "They're great for bringing to dinner parties if you can't afford to bring wine," he says.

David signing his cookbook

David is full of humorous ancedotes dotted with musings on life as an American in Paris. Here are some of my favourite quotes of the day:

On dessert:
"I don't like sweet things. People always laugh because I'm a pastry chef. But I like contrasts. I like salty and sweet. Or sugar with something tart or bitter."

On reader complaints:
"Someone complained my ice cream book had too many recipes with milk in it."

On blogging:
"You have to be really honest. It makes your blog much more interesting."

On leaving the [commercial] kitchen:
"I miss people but I don't miss standing for 14 hours. Or not being able to go the bathroom for 14 hours."

On leaving the US:
"I was sick of people being nice to me."

On why he moved to Paris:
"I'm kinda mean. People always ask me why I live in France. It's because I fit right in."

On living in Paris:
"I've stopped smiling. That's how people know you're not a tourist, but a local."

On food in Sydney:
"I find the food here very exhilarating. What people are doing here is very exciting."

David Lebowitz

Grab Your Fork attended Barbecue Madness and the World Chef Showcase as a guest of Destination NSW.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Sugar Hit 2011: Azuma Kushiyaki
World Chef Showcase 2010 - Marcus Wareing, Tetsuya Wakuda and Peter Gilmore
World Chef Showcase 2009 - Kylie Kwong, Fuchsia Dunlop, Chubby Hubby and Poh Ling Yeow
18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/04/2011 01:57:00 am


  • At 10/04/2011 7:53 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Should have gone to this particular bbq madness too! The lamb on spit looks unreal! Wow! I could easily have the salted butter caramel on it's own too.

  • At 10/04/2011 9:12 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Mmm the lamb looks fantastic, pity about the small servings. And I so wish I could have been at the showcase!

  • At 10/04/2011 10:27 am, Anonymous Lil miss stack it said…

    The lamb and produce looks mouth watering. You have written a great review. I enjoyed the short interviews you have included.

  • At 10/04/2011 10:51 am, Anonymous Nic@diningwithastud said…

    Love David Lebovitz and its great to know that he is as lo vely in person as he sounds on his blog

  • At 10/04/2011 1:28 pm, Blogger ameanderingmango said…

    Oh David is hilarious! I love the stuff he comes up with - too funny! Must have been great to meet him.

  • At 10/04/2011 2:43 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    So much lovin' in my heart right now. Through you, I'm two degrees from DL! Woooot!

  • At 10/04/2011 2:53 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    teehee <3 david

  • At 10/04/2011 3:49 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    lol at David Tsirekas and his lighter fluid! And the World Chef Showcase looks amazing - I'd love to see David Lebovitz in real life!

  • At 10/04/2011 4:27 pm, Anonymous K | Citrus and Candy said…

    Two of my favourite Davids in one day! Plus the idiot cake made by his own hands? No, I'm totally not jealous :P

  • At 10/04/2011 4:59 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    i love the look of that tomato martini :-)

  • At 10/04/2011 8:02 pm, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    That lamb on the spit is truly amazing, there is really no better way to cook it!

  • At 10/04/2011 9:31 pm, Blogger Melleemoo said…

    I think Darren Robertsons dish was beef... I ate it. Was so yumm! And I've read David leibowitz's biography, I am sure in person he would be very natural!

  • At 10/04/2011 11:08 pm, Anonymous Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    This year was my first year attending the World Chef Showcase. I thought it was absolutely amazing! Wish I could have attended all sessions.....

  • At 10/05/2011 10:10 am, Anonymous Sara - Belly Rumbles said…

    The tomato martini is just so gorgeous, you would never think it was tomato! Thanks for sharing the World Chef Showcase, have been humming and harrring about going and always decide not to, maybe next year.

  • At 10/05/2011 11:32 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That close-up shot of the lamb is making me drool. Great write-up of David's appearance!

  • At 10/05/2011 11:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I loved your review of the festival and I can't wait to attend the Noodle Markets that are coming up. Your photo of the rare breed pulled pork rolls with beetroot slaw is making my mouth water and I want to bite the screen. The World Chef Showcase section was a nice addition to your post.

  • At 10/10/2011 10:39 pm, Blogger David said…

    thanks for the nice write-up...it was fun meeting you as well! : ) xxx

  • At 10/21/2011 3:31 pm, Anonymous Ayden said…

    Wow, I didn't even know there were 30 different tomatoes! What do you think the other fruits think about that? ;)


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