Last weekend, as a treat for my birthday, my friend took me to the Cuisine Masterclass which is an event where culinary stars each demonstrate three dishes in a live cooking theatre at Langham Hotel. This was Cuisine’s second year of masterclass and there was a total of four classes held on Friday and Saturday. The class that my friend and I attended was done with the chef behind the amazing restaurant – Merediths. Meredith has been a very successful restaurant since its opening in 2007. The chef and owner – Michael Meredith – has cooked at some of Auckland’s best restaurants including Vinnies, Antoine’s and was the founding chef at The Grove. He is humble and down to earth and willingly interacted with the audience while we admired his cooking skills.
The first dish that he cooked was a cheese ravioli with panzanella salad. He incorporated different components in the dish such as eggplant puree which was smooth and flavourful, roasted onions and peppers, fried capers, crunchy sourdough, and of course, the goat cheese ravioli. I’m usually not a fan of goat cheese because I find the taste too strong and pungent. But in this case, he chose a milder variation and he added small amounts of water which made the filling less salty as well as give it a smoother consistency. The most genius part was how he used semi-melted cheese rather than the traditional egg pasta dough for the ravioli! So he basically made a goat cheese filling and wrapped it with a thin layer of malleable Provolone Dolce cheese that has been warmed in the oven. It was phenomenal!
If you have been following my blog, you would know that I love steak tartare. The combination of raw beef, shallots, gherkins, Worcester sauce and egg yolk is a match made in heaven! So imagine my surprise when he said he was going to be making a venison tartare for his second dish! He first prepared a flavourful tomato water and then turned it into jelly by adding agar-agar and gellan. He explained that by added these two ingredients, it actually gives the jelly a much softer texture compared to just adding agar-agar on it’s own. The tartare was a mixture of finely diced red deer venison short loin, shallots, capers, gherkins, fresh horseradish and a raw egg yolk and this was topped off with the tomato jelly and salmon roe. The salmon roe added another level of flavour and texture and was unexpectedly good with the tartare.
His last dish was a dessert and the best out of the three. It was a phenomenal raspberry and rhubarb yogurt cream with fresh raspberries, pink grapefruit, candied grapefruit zest and freeze-dried raspberries. He then added a rhubarb and raspberry juice and finished with a drizzle of mint oil and candied zest. The combination of the many different textures of the dish made it a winner. The yogurt had a semi-soft consistency and was flavourful without being overly sweet. The two types of raspberries (fresh and freeze dried) was delightful and added a nice crunch to the dish. The mint was subtle but gave the dish a nice clean taste. Everything combined was oh-so-perfect.
Observing his cooking procedures throughout the meal made me appreciate and admire the hard work that chefs put into their dishes. Each dish might seem simple on paper – ravioli salad, venison tartare and yogurt cream- but all the different components and combination of flavours required so much thought! The concept of having tomato jelly (rather than using pieces of tomato) because he wanted another dimension of texture, using mint oil rather than sprigs of mint because it produces more intense flavours and spending time to work with semi-melted cheese for the ravioli rather than taking the easy way by using regular egg pasta dough. All this hard work and thought goes behind his every dish and it thoroughly increased my appreciation for the food that chefs create and serve. Plus, listening to his thought process and his decisions to use certain ingredients made me realised that everything serves a purpose – the idea of putting flowers in a dish is not JUST to look pretty but it adds an element of bitterness to the dish.
Watching Michael Meredith cook is an unforgettable experience and I would like to thank my friend again for taking me this year. Without a doubt, I would be attending more of these Cuisine Masterclasses.
Date: Saturday 6th October, 2012 | Location: Great Room, Langham Hotel | Food: Event
If you’re interested in reading more about his inspiration and thought processes, you can do so here.