It’s all about workflow and timing for lesson 6. We’re doing a complete plate – shanks with jus, risotto and veg. The lamb’s from Pirinoa Station, one of the Wairarapa’s most renowned farms. Who would have thought that being exposed to a salty southerly could make such a difference to lamb. Apparently, the soil takes on the salt and it results in flavoursome and tender lamb.
We’re also in for a big treat today. Chef is not only doing a complete plate but making Nougat glace au chocolat et son coulis de griotte which is frozen chocolate nougat with cherry coulis. That means tempering the chocolate, making Italian meringue and the nougatine. One of his kitchen angels has already made the sour cherry coulis.
He’s constantly at it throughout the demo which means we will be running this afternoon. Well not literally running, you’re not allowed to run in the kitchen. It’s one of the many rules like no dangly earrings or watches, or heavy makeup or painted nails.
With the shanks beautifully browned and in the oven, the carrots turned and everything ready for the risotto, he puts his mind to the nougat which is like semi-freddo and the texture of a frozen mousse. Precision is everything from melting the chocolate to 55 degrees to ensuring the water and sugar are at 118 degrees for the Italian meringue. When it’s in the freezer, he turns his attention to the other components.
Everything is perfectly timed to be served hot at the same time. That’s going to be our major challenge in the practical, apart from turning those carrots. Some of us have spent considerable time practising and just as well. There won’t be any time to dick around with them.
Chef’s risotto is the most succulent creamed rice. We’re going to have to plan our timing carefully so that we aren’t distracted by other tasks as we devotedly stir the hot stock, one ladle at a time, into the rice.
The lunch break is spent writing our work plans. We prepare our mise en place list (everything in its place) and most importantly, our workflow, so that we deliver a hot beautifully presented meal to chef on time. Energy levels are high as we get underway knowing that this is going to seriously test some of us. There’s nothing I haven’t done before but it’s just so different preparing food to the highest of industry standards and then having it assessed and marked. (Actually, that’s not quite true: I have never ever in my life put so much cream in risotto.)
I think I’m doing OK. The carrots aren’t half bad. The meat might not be ready on time if I want to serve it really tender but that’s alright because we’re still getting the hang of the ovens. I’m up to the risotto stage and ready to add the parmesan. I pick up the metal tray that contains the carefully measured and grated parmesan from beside the gas hob, too close to the hob it seems. It’s scalding hot and it flies out of my hand in spectacular fashion. I feel the panic rising. I’ve got to clean it up, get more parmesan from the fridge, grate and weigh it, add it to the risotto plus get the shanks out and make the jus. I’m rescued by Chef who asks if that was the parmesan and immediately gets more and grates it for me without further comment. “Thank you” seems completely inadequate. But my relief is temporary. I heard sizzling coming from the carrots. ‘Would you like glaze carrots, Madam or fried’? I rescue them, but only just.
The under-side of my lower arm is stinging. There’s a welt of a burn the shape of a pot handle. Like Richie McCaw with his broken foot during the world cup, I play on through the pain barrier. There’s no time for burn cream yet. Chef is waiting to try my jerrat d’agneau.