A review by Franz Scheurer
Young Chefs’ dinners started when legendary chef Janni Kyritsis decided that he was not going to cook on MG Garage’s first birthday and he invited the young guns of his industry friends to come in and cook. His idea was not only brilliant it really promoted the upcoming talents in the industry and gave the public a chance to sample the culinary future. Because it was such a great event, Janni asked SMH Good Food Month to make the Young Chefs’ Dinner a part of their program and he would stay as the director, overseer and organiser, and it’s great to see that places for this annual extravaganza still sell out in a matter of minutes.
This year was the 13th anniversary for the Young Chefs and I am pretty sure I have been to all of them. It’s amazing to see just how many of the young chefs go on and make a name for themselves, some rather earlier than expected. The dinners are always held at the previous year’s Good Food Guide’s Best New Restaurant and this years dinner was held at Rockpool Bar & Grill. Industry legend Janni Kyritsis stays on, year after year, to mentor the young chefs and he does an incredible job. The dinner is a collaboration between five of Sydney’s most promising young chefs, including the winner of the year’s Josephine Pignolet Best Young Chef award.
This year the chefs were:
Graeme Hunt – Rockpool Bar & Grill
Jason Saxby – Quay Restaurant (Josephine Pignolet Award winner)
Soren Lascelles – Assiette
Robert Cockerill – Quay Restaurant, and
Katie Sharp – Billy Kwong
The venue, Rockpool Bar & Grill is certainly grand and impressive and the young chefs did it proud with their offerings. It’s a difficult venue, though, when it comes to holding speeches and basically impossible for the chefs to gauge the diners reactions as the room is just too big and diners are too spread out.
The evening started with Graeme Hunt’s two Canapés, lovely, strong liver paté and a goat’s cheese and beetroot morsel. The 2007 Stonier’s Sparkling from Mornington worked well.
Jason Saxby presented ‘Eel in Spring Garden’ which tasted every bit as good as it looked. You could see Peter Gilmore’s influence in the attention to detail and the 2009 Grenache Blanc Mon-Redon from Côtes-du-Rhône was an inspired match.
Soren Lascelles’ ‘Squid Ink Cannelloni of Scallop and Prawn, Zucchini Purée and Bisque Sauce’ was a revelation. Remember his name, he will be one of the great chefs of the future! His dish was easily the dish of the night and it convinced not just with its superb flavours but also with subtle, layered textures. Utter delight!
To quote Soren: “This is a reasonably simple dish but it also involves lots of technique. It is a refined and it’s important to be sensible with flavours. The flavours have to work together in harmony, nothing should overpower and all should work together to form one new flavour”. He certainly succeeded!
A 2008 Viognier from Madden’s Rise in the Yarra Valley was a good match, although it did not set the world on fire.
Robert Cockerill’s ‘Rabbit with Prunes, White Carrot, Pumpernickel and Malt Rubble’ showed us all just how succulent rabbit can be. This was a superb dish and I have never seen a white carrot before; purple, red, yellow yes, but not white (it tasted more like a very young parsnip than a carrot). This dish was matched with a 2008 Zinfandel, McHenry Honen’s ‘Rocky Road’ from Margaret River and the combination worked.
Graeme Hunt was next with ‘Beef Short Ribs Wood Fire Roasted Cumin and Chilli, Braised Sichuan Eggplant, Cucumber Shiitake Pickle’. This was such a Rockpool Group dish; the wonderful charred flavours of the wood fire, perfectly seared and rested meat, paired with superb eggplants, just coarsely mashed, and the bit of the pickle (sharp, intense and moreish); sensational! The wine choice of 2009 Shiraz / Cabernet (Rockpool branded house wine made by Grosset) Clare Valley was an inspired choice.
Soren Lascelles’ ‘Cheese Selection’ again confirmed the talent and finely honed craft this young chef exhibits. It consisted of a rich, smooth and creamy Brilliat Savarin mousse served with honeyed walnuts, pear puree with raisin, oat crumble and a fruit toast crouton. The wait staff poured a 2006 Pressing Matters RS139 Riesling from Coal River, Tasmania and I don’t think it was meant for the cheese course, but rather for the pineapple dessert to follow. It was overly acidic and did not work well with the cheese.
Katie Sharp had to wait patiently to the end to finally show off her ‘Pineapple, White Chocolate & Anise’ dessert. Really intense flavours with textures, reminiscent of the style of Alex Stupak, showed a dessert chef in the making. The Riesling worked a lot better with this, too.
The final course, meant to go with either coffee or tea, was Graeme Hunt’s ‘Pedro Ximénez 1927 Alvear Sherry Brûlée’ and I thought this was probably the only dish that was not a success; it was overly sweet and one-dimensional.
The food at this Young Chefs’ Dinner was probably the best so far and it’s a credit to the immense dedication of the young chefs and their mentor, Janni Kyritsis. Talking to Janni Kyritsis this morning he agreed with me that the food was probably the best in the event’s 13 year history.
The evening was relaxed with excellent service from the floor staff and the only thing that could be improved would probably be the timing of the dishes. I understand the extra pressure of cooking in a kitchen that is not your own and the fact that you are cooking for a critical and discerning audience.
All I have left to say is: BRAVO