As some of you may remember I contacted Pipedream Restaurant about being a Chef for a day and holding my very own afternoon tea. Well it all took place last Saturday and here’s an overview…..
I was very nervous because I was stepping into the kitchen where Masterchef winner Tim Anderson and his fellow contestants Jackie Kearney and James Perry had already taken the reigns. Would I be able to meet the standards they had already set?
Creating the menu
It started with creating the menu. Mike at Pipedream left it very much up to me. I knew I wanted something different. Something that would reflect this blog and be more of a dining experience. I didn’t want a three tier cake stand with smoked salmon or cucumber sandwiches. And I certainly didn’t want just scones. I also wanted to make the tea part of the whole experience because very often people don’t have a clue which kind complements the dishes they are going to be eating. So in view of the cold and flu season, I decided on Citrus botanicals. Perhaps the zesty flavours would help to ward off sniffles for my guests.
The prep started with lots of words of wisdom from Mike on what could work well and how things could be run. I helped him to understand the vision of each of the dishes in my head. I drew lots of pictures of how I wanted each to be presented and we settled on a three course service.
The next activity was getting my head around what and how much to order. I am used to baking at home. I am also used to baking and cooking for lots of people BUT usually I make lots of different dishes. This is very, very different to cooking lots of the SAME thing. Reverting to my office world, I created a spreadsheet for each recipe to work out exactly how much of everything I would need.
Aside from the food was artworking the recipe leaflet I wanted to hand out to everyone who came as a memento of the event. I’d never done this before. I have a lovely team of designers at work but I really wanted to do this myself so I asked a friend to teach me Illustrator one evening and a few days later it was done and had gone to print! It was all becoming real.
The week before I popped in and out of Pipedream’s kitchen prepping various items – The lemon curd for the meringue could be made a few days before; the pastry could be made and rolled out into rounds ready to line and bake the in tins in the morning; the rye loaves were baked the day before in order to dry out slightly for the bruschetta etc etc. By the end of Friday I felt prepped and completely knackered. I was anxious how I would make it through the actual event. My husband’s Sloe Gin was a great help 🙂
The day itself
I woke up at 5am panicking about pastry cases and cupcake frosting – and snow! Why did Zeus have to send the snow on MY special weekend! I hoped people would not be put off or snowed in.
I got to the restaurant early. Mike is very calm so it was pretty chilled as we finished as much prep as possible.
Our sous chefs arrived and I realised it was 2pm and I still had so much to do and so along came the worry of delegation. My team at work will advocate that I am not always great at delegating. I do like to be hands on so it was hard letting these catering students loose on my food!! They were lovely though and did a fine job with everything I asked them to do – OK so it was mainly washing up but that helped!
Three o’clock and most people were seated and watching with interest what was going on in the kitchen via the two TVs!
I welcome everyone and introduced how the the menu would flow and the teas from my wonderful tea sponsor Comins Tea House. And the rest is a blur so I was very glad that fellow food blogger Monica Shaw was on hand to photograph the event.
The kids course – Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies and Banana Muffins. Being a Mother I know children can get bored in restaurants so I had prepared a Kids activity booklet and brought colouring pencils for the little artists.
The first course – Lemon Rolls with Halloumi and Rocket dressed in Womersley’s Lemon, Basil, Bay and Juniper Dressing and Rye and Caraway Bruschetta with Lime Guacamole. This was served with Comins Tea House First Flush Darjeeling in glasses.
There were no major problems with that one except we had a walk in customer so had to plate it all up again for him while prepping the next course. Mild panic!
Next up – Orange Polenta Cake with Orange and Cardamom Drizzle served in a shot glass, with a top up of the Darjeeling.
Judging from the feedback, this was a favourite. Little did they know I had made one round of sugar syrup in prep that had needed to be thrown away because it had turned into caramel due to my inexperience with the professional cooker! The new syrup tasted gorgeous even if I do say so myself. At this point, I realised I hadn’t eaten all day so the little glassful I had gave me a real boost of energy.
And the final platter – a Lime Cupcake, a Lemon Meringue Tart and three little Citrus Macaroons. Orange with a marmalade filling, lime with a lime frosting filling and lemon with a lemon curd filling. Lemon was my personal favourite. This was served with Comins Tea House Silver Needle Tea.
This was the most difficult one for me because of the Italian meringue requirement. The first batch simply didn’t work because there was an air vent blowing down on my little KitchenAid cooling the sugar syrup too quickly as it went in. The second batch was OK but I ran out of time to pipe and went for a rustic looking topping.
And that was that! I didn’t have to do any washing up so I relaxed and chatted to everyone who came. I was overwhelmed with their positive feedback!
I’ve had a lovely write up in the local paper since and many kind words of congratulations since Saturday. Thank you to everyone who came and was involved in helping me.