A quick call from the hotel general manager informs me that in two days time I have another chef master class to conduct. Not much notice, but I love conducting cooking classes with hotel or local guests. Being able to share all those trade secrets and watching as people realise that it isn’t quite as hard as they thought, is incredibly rewarding. But there is much work that goes into making sure that the event is a success for everyone involved.
Setting up a Chef Master Class
Planning is paramount in the kitchen, that’s maybe why chefs work such long hours. The service side of things is actually easy, so long as everything is in place in advance. It’s the same with a chef master class.
A commercial kitchen is no place to hold a class, not enough room, not enough work stations, the participants need more space. This time we held the master class in one of the hotel villas, giving us a transportation headache, everything had to be brought over from the main kitchen.
My group on Friday night were 8 ladies from the media, including Qantas, New Idea and a blogger.
They were all here to experience Port Douglas restaurants and promote the Carnivale we host in May each year.
We set up 8 separate cooking stations, one for each lady. All of the raw ingredients were laid across the tables in order of use. At each station, we had an apron and laminated recipe cards for entree and main course.
Once the ladies were ready, we brought out the whole large mouth nannygai, laying them across the blue chopping boards. Large fresh fish certainly get everyone’s attention.
What Happens in a Chef Master Class?
Each and every master class is different, not just the food, but also the participants.
For me, a master class is about focusing on what people want to learn. Some participants will want to know all about the technical skills, others will be interested in seasoning and presentation, you can never judge it by appearances, women in delicate frilly dresses will often attack the whole fish, the person you thought would dive in won’t want to get their hands dirty. So much for preconceptions! You need to cover all bases to satisfy all of the clients.
At the end of my station, I have a well stocked bar and a waiter to serve drinks throughout the class. Masterclasses can go on for nearly two hours and that can require a generous amount of Sauvignon Blanc for participants.
I like to demonstrate the technique one stage at a time, the participants do the same to their own fish before I move on to the next stage, this allows me to help them with any technique or skill they’d like to refine.
As the master class gathers momentum the questions start to come in thick and fast. This is the part that I love, the interaction makes for some great revelations.
One client was amazed that the contestants on Master Chef actually have chefs helping them as they go. I had to explain that it was impossible to do what they do in the small time allocated and still do the insightful interviews. If that was the case I would leave home at 5 pm and be back just after 9 pm and still have a full and satisfied restaurant of punters.
Once the knowledge is shared around and all those juicy trade secrets explained, it comes to the eating. The part everyone loves, eating what they prepared.
Dinner After the Master Class
We head back to the restaurant to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labour. The part everyone has been looking forward to all day.
We enjoy fresh baked bread, dips and oils, before the first course of largemouth nannygai is served.
Dinner has to be matched with wines, of course.
A lovely local cheese and tropical fruit platter finishes off the night matched with either Mr Riggs ‘Sticky End’ or Penfolds rare ‘ Grandfather Tawny Port’. A perfect afternoon’s lesson finished with a glorious dinner that everyone helped prepare.
Little goodie bags to take home with recipes, signed wooden spoon, aprons and a lovely hand crafted, wax wrapped local cheese are the equivalent of kids’ party bags, everyone goes home happy.
Have you ever participated in chef’s master class ? If so did you enjoy it or learn any secrets ? I would love to hear your stories, feel free to share.