Friday, July 30, 2010

Back to Bruny.

This Sunday Mrs Chef and I are off to Bruny Island again for a lunch with the Rare Foods boys Ross and Mathew. The lunch is going to focuss on Bruny Island lamb and of course some of their fantastic pork products, that will be sadly missing from the Sunday farmers market until September. Almost out of bacon what to do. We will also get the chance to try some Bruny Island wines as well. Very much looking forward to this lunch as I am a big fan of what they are doing and I am hoping to get some curing tips from Ross. I plan to take some photos and post them early next week. On the way we will stop at Bruny Island Cheese and get some saint to compare with our little gems we made the other week with Nick. It will be interesting to see if we can notice a difference between our raw milk cheese and a pasturised milk cheese. Will let you know about that one.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What a weekend that was, it is good to be a chef.

Well we have just completed the busiest weekend we have had at Hadleys since I started in late April. We fed just over 500 people from Friday - Sunday night just in functions. Then we had the restaurant, room service and around 130 people in for high teas so it was all go. Friday night was the big one with 3 dinners and a cocktail party. I take my hat off to my team and the front of house team as the whole weekend went very well. All functions were well organized and ran very smoothly. The temp staff we had in from our sister hotel and a local polytechnic worked very well. It is such a buzz when you have a big day, or in this case a big weekend, when everything just clicks and you can stand back at the end of the night and say that there was nothing I could have done to make this go any smoother. It has been a long 3 months but we have Hadleys pointing in the right direction now so we are looking forward to a busy lead up to Christmas. And not to forget that little thing of opening Hadleys Collins Street as well. We are in the final stages of planning the fit outs for both front and back of house. Busy designing the kitchen and food outlets, getting quotes and the other 100 thing that come with opening a new outlet.

We are adding some more staff to our teams now as demand grows and this is allowing me to spend the time required to manage what we are doing and giving me the time to plan where we want to be. We have had 2 groups of hospitality students come in for a behind the scenes look at how a hotel works from a local polytechnic this week. The 2 groups were divided into 2 sections those that want to work front of house and those that want to work, of course where all the fun is, in the kitchen. So I met with them first and gave them a look around and a brief lesson on what we do at Hadleys and what we will be doing with the new development. Then showed them through the kitchen were they got to see what a kitchen looks like after a busy breakfast and lunch service. Also this gave them the chance to ask any questions they wanted. It was a good intro for them and also gave us a sneak peek at those students who were serious about making hospitality their career.

One of the questions that I was asked was " what are the benefits of being a chef " for me this is an easy question to answer. For one if you apply yourself you can always get a job, you can travel at home and abroad and you will get out of this industry what you put in and it can take you far indeed. I will be traveling to China and Japan in a few weeks to organize some purchases and see a few concepts that we want to implement in the new development. And for me being given the chance to do this is one of the best perks about my job. I would like to thank the owner of Hadleys for putting his trust in me and giving me the chance to be so involved in what is going to be a fantastic development. So I will be having a ball with any free time I get in China and eating as much street food as I can and taking as many photos as I can for my blog. Tokyo fish markets here  I come, I do not care what time I have to get up I can sleep on the plane on the way back. I have a shopping list a mile long and my staff keep adding to it on a daily basis. As long as I have enough room left for a knife or two for me and something nice for Mrs Chef then all is good.

I have added a new page to my blog called ask the chef. Now I do not want to sound like a know it all but if you have any culinary questions then just ask and we will see what we can do. Also lets swap and share recipes, photos and dinning experiences. I am very keen to get some old recipes for sauces, jams, chutney and relishes. And any recipes for hams, salami and meat curing in general, especially prosciutto as this is something that I have wanted to do for a long time. This page is for general information and the sharing of knowledge so lets give it a go and have some fun with it. I was asked not so long ago why I shared some of my so called chef secrets. Well as far as I am concerned food is about sharing and not just the dinning experience. I like to know the story behind the products that I am using and I like to pass this on to my team and guests as well. This gives everyone a greater understanding of what and why I use some of the products that I use and also gets the name of some of my producers and products out there as well. Some one may eat at Hadleys and in a few months be somewhere else and recognize a name of a supplier or product and remember that they enjoyed it and try it again. Then it is win win for everyone from the producer to the customer. If someone asks me how or why I use something or how do I do that then I will always pass on the information.

By the way the cheese is going nicely it has a good layer of white mould growing on it and it starting to ripen from the outside in. We could not resist and tried some last night great taste still developing and a bit chalky inside but on the way. I will post some photos of the cheese soon. Can not wait for China and Japan.     

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cheese nothing but the cheese, make mine raw milk please.

Saturday the 11th July Mrs Chef and I had the chance to do something that we have wanted to do for a long time make our own cheese. The day was run by Nick Haddow of Bruny Island Cheese and what a day it was. We started out with some theory about cheese making to give us an understanding of what we were about to make and the various steps along the way and what was happening to the cheese.
Because we were making this cheese for our own consumption we were given the choice of using raw or pasteurised milk. Of course we jumped at the chance to use the raw milk so we could get the full flavor of the milk into our cheese. The debate about raw milk will have to wait for another post. We started by heating the milk to 35 c and placing the pot into a sink of warm water to maintain the temperature.

The next step was to add the starter culture and sir well every few minutes for the next 45 minutes. All the while keeping an eye on the temperature. Nick is a very good teacher and spent a lot of time ensuring we new what we were doing and answering our many questions.

After the 45 minutes we added the rennet and mixed well to set the curd. A process that would take around 40-50 minutes. During this time Nick kept us busy getting ready for the next steps and entertaining us with stories of his travels to make cheese in Europe
and again answering questions.

Now the fun really starts testing the curds. At this stage you gently put your fingers into the curd at an angle and gently lift up. What you are looking for is the curd to split as in the photo on the left. When you see this you know the curd is ready for cutting.

Cutting the curd. You are supposed to gently cut the curd into even walnut size pieces, not so easy to do with a knife in a pot. You cut in one direction then the other until you have cut the curd in a criss cross pattern. Then you cut the same way from top to bottom, we ended up with some strange looking walnut pieces. You cut the curd to help release the whey. At this stage the curds are very delicate so you let them rest for 30 minutes before you start stirring the curds.

Stirring the curds. During this process you gently stir the curds by hand this allows you to gently break up any large pieces and by stirring this helps expel the whey. You do this every few minutes for about 30 minutes. during this time the curds are gradually firming up and more why is released. Then you allow the curds to settle and the whey to release you should have in your pot about 50/50 curds and whey.

Hooping time once the curds have settled you drain off some of the whey and then scoop the curds into the groovy little moulds called hoops. You need to fill the hoops to the max because as the whey drains out the curds compress and you will end up with a cheese half the size from when you started.

The finished cheese in the hoops draining once they have sat for about 10 minutes you need to turn them in the hoops. It was at this stage that Nick casually eased a cheese out of the hoop tossed it up in the air and caught it one handed and deftly placed it back into the hoop a process that took Nick around 5 seconds. For us it would take longer with mixed results. Until Mrs Chef took a spare hoop and placed it on top of the filled hoop and just turned them up the other way. A technique that soon caught on with those that were sharing our bench. But I still had to give the one handed tip, toss, catch and stuff routine a go. But I will admit with mixed results. The cheese had to be turned 5 times over the next few hours to assist in the draining of the whey. The hoops are placed on to a black cheese mat and this is placed onto a cake rack and placed into a plastic storage box with a lid and this box would become our maturation chamber. So there we have it our cheese made, hooped and stored but what to do with all that whey, well I am glad you asked we make fresh ricotta with it.

This is a very old practice born out of necessity to utilise all that you can from a product and not waste anything. Just about all ricotta that you can buy is made from milk these days and not whey which is the traditional way to make ricotta. It is such a simple process the whey is heated to 60 c then salt is added. The whey is then heated to 90 c and some vinegar is added. The ricotta forms almost immediately on top of the whey. The ricotta is then scooped off and is ready to eat. Let me tell you that warm fresh ricotta is so far removed from what you buy in the shop it was fantastic. 

So there you have it our fantastic cheese day spent with Nick making our own little cheeses. If you have ever want to give this a go I can highly recommend it as you will have a great day and some good cheese. To be able to spend the day with someone as passionate about their craft as Nick is a wonderful experience. Nick pointed us to a few web sites if we wanted to continue our cheese making endeavors.
We are hoping that Nick will increase his classes and enable us to do more courses. Once we got our cheese home we had to continue turning them and letting them drain. The next day the cheese is taken out of the hoops and  we placed them into a salt brine for 45 minutes then back into the cleaned and sterlised maturation chamber. We have to turn the cheese once every day and we should start to see the white mould growing on them around day five. The cheese is ready to wrap in waxed wrap around day 10 then matured as we like. We marinated 1 of the cheeses after the first day in EVO and herbs to eat as a fresh curd and it was delicious. I will post more photos of our cheese as they mature.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Well it is about time that I updated my blog. It has been a while and I have done a fair bit since my last post so this may have to be over two posts. So first up I have taken up the Executive Chefs position at Hadleys and have been hard at work there since April 26th. What attracted me to Hadleys, apart from being back in Hobart with Mrs Chef, is what Hadleys once was and is going to be again. I am part of a new management team that has been charged with resurrecting Hadleys and making Hobart fall in love with Hadleys once again. Also we have been charged with the opening of the new Hadleys Collins street development. look out Hobart Hadleys is coming back and is going to have something for everyone. Hadleys Murray street will continue with our restaurant, high teas, conference and function rooms. While Hadleys Collins street will add around another 130 rooms more conference and function rooms another restaurant with a huge wood fired Argentine grill, boy am I looking forward to getting my hands on that grill. Wood, fire and meat does it get any better than that not to mention the seafood that I can grill on that bad boy.

The old stables will become a fantastic function room perfect for intimate weddings. We will also have a Complete Gourmet deli stocking all your favorite deli lines as well as a range of ready to go take home meals for you to finish at home. At the other end of the deli will be a cafe with boxed lunches to go for the office worker on a time line. And out side in the glass covered court yard will be our wood fired pizza area. So with two restaurants, multiple function rooms, over 200 rooms, deli, cafe, pizza area, conference and weddings I am going to be a busy chef, but what a buzz getting all this sorted. I am lucky to have been given the chance to design and fit out the kitchens and it will be nice to work in a space designed for chefs with things where they are supposed to be.

Ok food wise the first two months were spent getting the kitchen into some sort of shape and getting to know my new team and work out what level they were at. I am very pleased to say that the team are very keen and eager to learn and have embraced all that we are striving to achieve. That is not to say that we have not made a few mistakes in the first few months but each one has been learning experience for the team. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel just give it a bit of a polish. Nor are we trying to be the best 5 star restaurant in town. But we do want to be producing good food and our first menu is a good training ground for the team. So look forward to bigger and better things.

As far as food adventures go I have not had a lot of time to get out there yet but I have been to Bruny Island Cheese, and did not want leave the cheese room. Never miss the farmers market Sunday mornings. We spent the day yesterday with Nick from Bruny Island Cheese making cheese, something that we have been wanting to do for a while, and what a day it was. I will post the photos on the next post and updates on how the cheese is maturing over the next two weeks.