By Popular Demand
By Douglas Elder, Head Chef, Epicurean Centre
The one segment of Masterchef that I do enjoy watching is the chef challenge. It is the one where the contestant cooks off against a professional chef. It is not very often that the amateur will win, however, it is great fun when they do. Not as funny though as watching the judges pretend they don’t know which dish was cooked by whom. It always looks pretty obvious which one is a restaurant dish from where I am watching! A couple of weeks ago, following one of the challenges, during tasting of the desserts, something was said by one of the judges and my interest was piqued. The contestants cooked a simple poached pear and biscuit compared to a complicated dessert by the professionals of marshmallow, pear, blue cheese and pumpkin. Gary noted that if you sold 100 desserts in a restaurant, 98 of them would probably be the pear. I myself, being a chef, probably would be much more likely to be attracted to the blue cheese dessert due to it being something out of the norm.
It made me think. Do chefs cook food that the customers enjoy, or are they sometimes cooking food they themselves enjoy?
Being a chef is a very creative job. We are constantly looking for new ideas, techniques, ingredients, recipes; anything that will help to create new dishes. However, sometimes these ideas can be far removed from the desires of the dining public. One of my chefs often jokes that if you want a dish to sell, just put a steak on it, in reference to Australians’ love of beef! It may be the core ingredient or an interesting combination of flavours that will challenge the diner (a dish we once had of prawns and rabbit used to raise many an eyebrow). I personally love to eat offal, and I often have offal on the menu for those who wish to try it or enjoy it. Whilst more people these days are willing to try new things, these dishes will never be our biggest selling items.
Therefore, when designing our new desserts we made the decision to succumb to popular demand and put a favourite on the menu. Chocolate fondant pudding. Who doesn’t love a rich, oozing, warm chocolate pudding served with a toasted marshmallow ice-cream? However, with chefs being chefs, we did have to do a few things a little differently. I personally love the licorice anglaise that accompanies the dish as well as the candied nashi balls and the ‘dulce de leche’ (a caramelised sweetened milk popular in South America) that sits under the pudding. We match this dessert with the 2010 Cellar Door Noble Chardonnay. It is the first time Brown Brothers has released a Botyritis Chardonnay and occurred when a prized block of chardonnay grapes developed the noble rot during the extremely humid finish to the 2010 growing season. I guess one could say that one wine grower’s loss is another dessert lover’s gain.
Has it been selling, well – yes of course. However with two other wonderful desserts created by my sous chef Jason, it has some tough competition. I would much prefer the orange jelly with cheesecake, persimmon and macadamia crumbs pictured below. What do you think?