Appetite for excellence: Whet your appetite

Disclosure: I attended courtesy of Electrolux Appetite for Excellence.

Electrolux Appetite for Excellence is a national awards program held annually that celebrates the best young chefs, waiters and restaurateurs. The other week I was invited to a dinner – Whet Your Appetite – where the Victorian finalists worked together to create a meal.

Participants for the dinner were:

  • Jake Nicolson, Circa the Prince: 2008 Electrolux Australian Young Chef Winner
  • Kah-wai Lo, Hare & Grace: 2012 Electrolux Australian Young Chef National Finalist
  • Michael Fox, Henry & The Fox: 2012 Electrolux Australian Young Chef National Finalist
  • Michael Demagistris, Sorrento Golf Club: 2012 Electrolux Australian Young Chef National Finalist
  • Damien Byrne, Lot 7: 2012 Electrolux Australian Young Waiter National Finalist
  • Pierre-Etienne Geoffroy, Jacques Reymond: 2012 Electrolux Australian Young Waiter National Finalist
  • Simone Spicer, Pei Modern: 2012 Electrolux Australian Young Waiter National Finalist

  • Dinner started with loaves of sourdough served with cultured butter and pork fat. YES: pork fat. The lard had been slow cooked and layered on top was an additional crunchy pork crumble, made with pork, dehydrated potato and onion.

    The bread was excellent but paired with the pork fat – ahhhh come to me, my pretty! I was seated with Haz, April and April’s hubby, and I’m pretty sure that at least one of them threatened to steal the dish and scoff the fat by itself.

    Entree was created by Jake Nicolson from Circa / The Prince: a mud crab and prawn roll with peanut satay dressing. Served with slices of nashi pear, it was really good: the soft wrapper giving way to the crunchy, slightly spicy ingredients inside: crab meat, tiger prawns, carrot, cabbage, coriander, cucumber, lime juice and phở jelly.

    There was a funny moment when I thought we were being told it was faux jelly, and I was a bit perplexed as to how this fake jelly was made…

    There were two parts to main course, with the first part made by Kah-Wai Lo from Hare & Grace. He created a classic Chinese dish – Emperor’s pork. The master stock used was first created by his father about 25 years old.

    The pork was fantastic: pleasingly fatty and tender, with those classic soy and star anise flavours. It was topped with deep fried pork skin.

    Steamed peasant bread / mantou was served with the pork.

    The second part was made by Michael Demagistris from Sorrento Golf Club – confit duck with beetroots and cavalo nero, served with a side of celeriac puree with millet, hazelnut, and brown butter.

    The duck and beets were lovely, but holy moly the cavalo nero. Battered and deep fried, it was so crunchy I couldn’t stop eating it. I may have had a moment. 🙂

    The duck came with two sauces – a duck jus and a mushroom sauce. The mushroom sauce in particular was divine – and we actually just drank our portion like it was a soup. I may have had a moment with the cavalo nero, but April’s hubby definitely had one with the mushroom sauce. It had so much flavour it could’ve been served as a soup.

    Dessert was from Michael Fox from Henry and the Fox. He created a gingerbread cake with caramelised banana, coffee ice-cream, dark chocolate sauce and espresso mascarpone. Great cake – not too dense and heavy with spices.

    During the dinner we had the opportunity to speak to the waiters and the chefs. Everyone we spoke to really impressed with their passion for their profession.

    Winners for the awards are being announced at a ceremony on Monday – good luck to all the Victorian finalists.

    For more, see: appetiteforexcellence.com