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SSC Newspaper : April 2012
24 Strathfield Scene april 2012 food By Bernadette Chua I t all sounded so simple. Learn how to whip up a four-course seafood lunch under the watchful eye of executive chef Brett Shakespeare during a masterclass at the Pullman Hotel’s fine-dining restaurant Bacar. Until I saw the cauliflower. It sat on the bench, gleaming white and looking innocent. My task? To chop it up and simmer it in enough milk and cream to induce a heart attack, ready to turn it into a puree to accompany crispy- skinned snapper. The caulie’s head was impressively bumpy. But my inexperienced hands struggled to cut its florets evenly. Shakespeare is a natural teacher, burly and friendly. Swiftly he swooped in beside me, giving tips on how to handle a knife properly. “It’s all about how you handle the knife. You have to make sure you have complete control because it’s not only a safety measure, but it’ ll make your life so much easier,” he explained. “ The skills and methods you learn today are easily translated into your kitchen at home and I’ll be teaching you recipes in which you can substitute different produce.” With me were four couples, each beginning the class with a glass of sparkling wine as they smoothed their aprons ready to face the challenge. On the menu were grilled oysters, seared scallops, crispy-skinned snapper and chocolate fondant dessert. Shakespeare manages to oversee eight students, all delegated to a different task during the day. Having trained at The Summit in Sydney and worked in South Korea, he has been head chef at Bacar, at the Pullman Hotel in Sydney Olympic Park, for the past five years. And the masterclasses are a great way for him to get to know local diners and pass on some of his love for food. “Cooking is a passion for me and for me to share my passion with others makes it that much more enjoyable. It breaks up my day and besides that, I get to sit down at the end and enjoy the food that I’ve prepared,” he said. “ We change the menus every season so it’s something new every masterclass, and we have people coming back over and over again to learn new recipes and skills.” To make my cauliflower puree, it was simmered in milk and cream, blended in a food processor, and then passed through a mouli to give the puree a smooth, silky texture. “Wedousealotof milkand cream,butitdoes add that richness,” said Shakespeare. “Mind you, you won’t be eating like this every day so once in a while you can treat yourself.” My next task was to prepare a horseradish and parmesan butter to cover my grilled Pacific oysters. I pulled on disposable rubber gloves and dug my hands into the butter, combining it with grated horseradish and the cheese. Around me, other couples were working on their dishes – filleting the snapper, cleaning the scallops, and melting chocolate for the fondant. However, the Bacar chefs make sure you don’t spend the whole day slaving away at preparation. After a couple of hours, we were led to the chef ’s table where we waited as each couple cooked and served a course. Each was paired with a glass of Australian or European wine to match the flavours. My moment of truth arrived as I went back to the kitchen and began spooning the flavoured butter onto each oyster before they were briefly grilled. I plated up the oysters and waited tentatively as the diners began to feast. The thumbs up. I felt proud and elated – I had made something edible, even delicious. Our next course of seared scallops with wasabi pea puree and butter-poached asparagus was a sensational dish. Shakespeare stressed the importance of not overcooking seafood. “Once you throw a piece of fish or scallops on the grill, it keeps cooking even after you take it off the hotplate so don’t leave it on for too long,” he said. “That is the number one rule with cooking seafood – never overcook it.” The next course of crispy-skinned snapper was served on my silken cauliflower puree with HomebusH mastercHef pommes Anna (which is a classic French potato stack) and a watercress salad with truffle oil. The pièce de résistance was the rich and luscious chocolate fondant with praline ice cream and pistachio brittle. When our spoons cracked the pudding’s crust, the melted dark chocolate flowed like lava – delightfully delectable. Overall, the class was rewarding – a fun way to meet new people, learn new recipes and pick up cooking skills. Gourmet tips from The skills and methods you learn today are easily translated into your kitchen at home and I’ll be teaching you recipes in which you can substitute different produce. Brett Shakespeare runs masterclasses at Becar, the Pullman Hotel, Sydney Olympic Park, next on April 28 and May 26 from 11am to 3pm. Cost is $145 per person, including wine. To book, call 8762 7959.