My Vue – Modern French Cookery
A book review by Franz Scheurer
There aren’t that many chefs around these days who had the benefit of a solid, in-depth, classical training, learning their craft from the ground up, warts and all. There aren’t many chefs who truly cook innovative food, and put their own stamp on culinary history. There are even fewer chefs who can, and want to, pass on their knowledge to the next generation and do so with a single-minded determination, and there aren’t many who take incredible business and culinary risks and succeed.
Shannon Bennett is that chef.
Growing up in Westmeadows, 25km north of Melbourne, it was watching Mum baking in the kitchen on cold Sunday afternoons that fired his insatiable curiosity and interest in food. He loved to watch, taste and smell, but often became too exited to eat. He feels that chefs always perform better on an empty stomach. “If you are hungry your senses and instincts are much sharper, just like an animal hunting”, he says. He reckons that if he loves what he just tasted, then so will nine out of ten people he cooks for and the tenth “must have spoilt their appetite before dinner”.
Shannon might come across as arrogant but he simply knows he knows his stuff. He is both prepared to learn from his peers and criticise them. He doesn’t suffer fools easily and demands total dedication from his team.
Mrs. Malcolm, a sturdy home economics teacher first pushed Shannon to get a feel for the industry and into his first job cooking burgers at McDonald’s, where he learnt hard work, discipline, organization and cleanliness. A dinner at the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly in London, as a guest of his uncle during the school holidays, where every second of his experience was in the hands of professionals, left a lasting impression on him. After writing to the top ten hotels in Melbourne requesting an apprenticeship, the Grand Hyatt came through for him and Swiss chef Roger Lienhard taught him about cooking and running a profitable and efficient business. Following a character-forming, hard stint in John Burton Race’s kitchen, known as the toughest in Europe at the time, he worked with Marco Pierre White at The Restaurant at the Hyde Park Hotel in Knightsbridge. At this stage, Marco had accumulated, over 5 years, some of the world’s best chefs, resulting in a team capable of producing extraordinary and incomparable food. Finishing his ‘learning stage’ as a commis chef in the pastry kitchen of Albert Roux, he returned to Melbourne and, against all financial odds, started his own restaurant on 10th May 2000…and a new star was born.
My Vue is a book that describes Shannon’s aches and pains, joys and achievements, in a narrative that is critical, sometimes almost clinical and totally devoid of self-pity. It is an inspirational read, an incredible source of knowledge, a guide to many of life’s lesson and a must read for any aspiring cook. This is more than a cookbook or a mere collection of recipes, although it fills that role very competently as well, it is a journey to culinary success without compromise, spurred on by the fire of heart-felt passion, with success being inescapable.
Shannon, I salute you!
My Vue – Modern French Cookery
By Shannon Bennett
Price: $ 59.95
Available 1st November 2004