The day started out in a very civilised fashion; with a cup of coffee. All the lucky participants gathered around a cozy oak dining table enjoying a coffee and a few sweet nibbles. A very pleasant way to break the ice. Michel Roux Jr. walked in casually half way through my coffee. Amanda Ross, our hostess for the day and owner of Cactus Studios, introduced him. Amanda said that despite his fame, Michel Roux Jr. remains one of the friendliest and most approachable people in the business. I was in awe. Michel (if I may call him that) is a true gentleman with sparkling blue eyes and a perpetual smile. It was truly amazing to get to know the man behind the apron.
Without a second to waste, we headed to the kitchen. As it were, every participant had his/her own kitchen with all the trimmings (KitchenAid food processor and blender, professional knives, Michel Roux Jr. pots and pans). Had a camera been placed in the centre of the room, no one would have been fazed; we felt like celebrity apprentices.
Michel laid out the program of the day and apologised that he would have to pop out for a few hours mid-day. He has a kitchen in Mayfair to run after all! Michel and Monica explained what the menu would be and kicked off straight away. It has to be said that there is genuine chemistry between them. Michel trained Monica in his kitchen at Le Gavroche and she is now the very accomplished and respected sous-chef. Monica might seem cold and demanding on Masterchef but in reality, she is warm and personable. And with quite a sense of humour!
So what did we cook on the day? Let me whet your appetite...
Mackerel with Cauliflower Puree and Vegetables a la Grecque
Roast Duck Breast on Wilted Turnip Greens, Parsnip Tatin and Butternut Squash Puree
Chocolate Souffle with Chocolate Sauce
Who would have known that I could put together such a feast. But I did! Monica showed everyone the ropes for each recipe and invited us to venture out on our own after that. So I sweated, and sighed, and cursed, and smiled, as my very own creations came to life. And I learned a few things along the way. Did you know that chefs prep dessert first, followed by the main and then the first course? Backwards in effect! And how many times did I hear, “Watch your fingers!” as I came dangerously close to slicing off my finger. Thanks Chef!
Michel returned in the afternoon to offer more culinary tips. He walked around everyone’s station and gave little snippets of advice. After all the hard work, we all sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labour accompanied by some delicious wines round the bespoke square table.
Ah, the best part of all! Tasting and enjoying the food, which we had prepared. And in excellent company too…