LETS TALK DESSERTS
Wandering into the kitchens at the Grand Hotel, where the amazing smells of lunch being prepared has awakened my senses, and the beautifully presented food being collected for service is making my tummy rumble. I haven’t even reached my destination yet, The Pastry section, a part of the kitchen that I really feel at home in. After all who doesn’t love a good dessert?
I’m meeting up with one of our incredibly talented in house pastry chefs, Gareth Millington.
As I approach Gareth he is in the middle of making something that looks so delicious I can’t quite put it into words. “What’s that”? I ask. “Raspberry Parfait” he responds. He takes the bait and offers me a sample, my taste buds are exploding, I am in heaven.
“Focus on the task in hand”, I tell myself, or we will end up in the type of situation where I have eaten half of his parfait and I am later found curled up in the staff room fast asleep.
“So why did you choose catering as a profession ?” I’m still half eyeing up the delights he is creating.
“I didn’t, I never really knew what I wanted to do. At the age of 15 I was washing pots at the local pub and one evening our Commis chef never turned in. My boss at the time turned to me and asked if I had seen the starters going out, and before I knew it I was suited and booted in chef whites, creating food for the first time in my life. The end of the shift came and my boss turned around and fired me. Being the 15 year old boy I was back then, I shared a few select words and went upstairs to get my things in disbelief. When I came back down still absolutely furious, he threw me some clean chef whites and said “congratulations, your my new Commis Chef”. That was that, my culinary journey had begun.”
So what has brought you to our Great Old Dame, The Grand Hotel?
“I actually came in as an agency chef, after working several shifts, John took me to one side and asked me if I would like to make it a permanent role and come and work with him. It was quite a big thing for me, having a Michelin starred chef like John Burton-Race rate me enough to offer me a permanent position in his kitchen, was a real highlight in my career”
Ah yes our Executive Head Chef Mr John Burton-Race, his food is amazing and he has enjoyed great acclaim throughout his career, gaining not one but two Michelin stars, such a skilled phenomenal chef, I bet you can learn a thing or two from him?
“Definitely, as a chef food is everything to you, your passion, your life, you are always eager to learn and craft your skill, working under John has already broadened my knowledge base plus he’s a great guy to work with.”
That is fantastic to hear, as I know that one of Johns primary focuses is to encourage and develop new talent and he is passionate about sharing his skills and investing his time in creating our “Master” chefs of the future.
So what’s it like to work with John, does he get a bit grumpy in the kitchen?
He laughs… “nah he’s a chef! us chefs are always under a lot of pressure, so what other people perceive as grumpy, to us chefs it’s just banter and then heated banter. John has a great sense of humour and the kitchen is always a lot more lively when he’s here, he is actually a really funny guy.”
My next question, more from a personal perspective and the guilty pleasure of sampling my own baking. I just can’t understand how you guys can cook the most amazing food that smells out of this world and not eat it?
Chuckling again… “Well I taste my food, we have to taste everything to make sure it is perfect. My pride in my food is everything so without tasting it I can’t take ownership of it. Just a small taste though, the food I cook is for others to enjoy, but when I make it I am proud to see it leaving the kitchen. If I ate it I wouldn’t have anything to serve.
Fair point, probably why I would never be employed to work in a kitchen.
Any good shouts for excellent desserts or bakes?
I make a mean pistachio and olive cake, it is one of my favourites to make and goes down a treat. It doesn’t last long mind, its very moreish.
PISTACHIO AND OLIVE OIL CAKE
200g of pistachio nut
200g of sugar
125ml of olive oil, warmed
100g of butter, melted
2 oranges, juiced
2 lemons, juiced
50g of polenta
75g of flour
1 tsp baking powder
To prepare the pistachio and olive oil cake, start by making a sabayon (what’s that?). Add the eggs and sugar to a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently boiling water. Whisk vigorously until the mixture becomes light and frothy, Slowly mix in the oil, butter, lemon juice and orange juice, Blitz the polenta, pistachio nuts, flour and baking powder into a fine crumb, then gently fold into the sabayon mixture until a dropping consistency has been achieved. Add to a lined cake tin and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
Whilst we have been having a natter he has moved on from making the raspberry parfait. Gareth is now whipping up a Chocolate and passion fruit bavarois. A Bavarois is a traditional indulgent Bavarian cream mousse dessert, did I know this?. no! Gareth told me. He is a very knowledgeable chap when it comes to all things pud.I’m sensing the kitchen is starting to get busier, so I think I will take my leave before I out stay my welcome. Just one more question before I do.
What are your future plans and ambitions?
“I used to like the idea of owning my own business, but as my life has changed I have become very much a family man. So to be honest I’m really happy right here learning from John and increasing my knowledge to become better and better at what I do. That way I get to work for a great company and under a fantastic chef, and that allows me to leave work and spend time with my wife and little girl without any stresses or strains. Although I wouldn’t say no to a promotion if it comes my way” adding a cheeky grin.
Keep making desserts like that and you are well on your way, I say whilst stealing a bit of his Bavarois and making my exit.
I asked John for a quick comment on Gareth,
He quickly responds “Amazing chef, then bursting into laughter, too many tattoo’s though”
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