The last two weeks of the course were predominantly focused on our final assessment, the group dinner. Fourty eight unsuspecting members of the public paid to have twelve wholefood chefs-in-training cook them dinner over two nights. OK, so some of the guests weren’t that unsuspecting as they were friends and family, but we had genuine members of the public to cater for as well.
Week 12 started with our practical exam. After that experience you understand how the contestants on Masterchef feel when confronted with the Mystery Box challenge. We were given a protein (I got lucky with fish) and asked to make two breakfasts, a protein lunch, a hearty vegan dinner and something sweet. We had to include an agar or gelatine component, sea vegetables and pastry. On the morning of the exam we were also given two grains, a legume and a lentil to add to our dishes. Let’s just say I won’t be scoffing at any tears on TV cooking shows any time soon.
The rest of the week was dedicated to planning and preparing for our group dinner. The group was divided into two, with each group of six to cook on the following Monday and Tuesday nights. Our task was to devise a menu that showcased local and seasonal produce, taking into account the different skills we had learnt throughout the course. Each group was responsible for planning their menu and sourcing all of the food required for the night. We were allocated time within class to test our recipes, which enabled us to tweak our planned menu throughout the week.
My groups’ menu had a spring theme, which was well timed as Monday turned out to be hot. The kitchen is not a great place to be when it’s hot. Our menu included cold soup, calamari salad and a vanilla rubbed slow cooked shoulder of lamb. The evening was finished off with a sensational cardamom and strawberry vanilla labne pop, made by the very talented Angie. Despite the fact that one of our lamb shoulders took forever to cook, and we were thrown a surprise vegan at the start of the evening, it all ended well.
On Tuesday we were responsible for waitressing whilst the other group produced their fantastic menu, this time with a French Provincial Theme. It was great to be serving their wonderful food and hearing all the well deserved compliments they were receiving.
After starting Wednesday morning with a lovely group breakfast, it was back to the grindstone. Our final task was to submit a report detailing our menus, recipes, and budgets and detailed recipe costings for the dinner. It was quite amusing to see a row of computers with everybody beavering away. Took me right back the final hours of my honours submission at Uni.
All good things must, however, come to an end. It has been an intense but worthwhile three months. And now I need a rest.