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Q&A--Amateur Cooking Competitions

8 posts in this topic

Andy,

Interesting stuff. Can I ask how you felt about the 'suggestions' of Bruce Poole? It seems to me that they stifled some of the creativity of your menu, and made it somewhat more restauranty (I think I just made that word up!), and 'safe'.

Also, do you think your success on Masterchef was aided by the fact it was Shaun Hill as the guest chef? Your menu sounds like the sort of thing that would appeal to him - well balanced, fairly simple menu with bold flavours. I have seem some fairly awful things done in the name of presentation on Masterchef (Vegetables cut into the shape of tiny fish - And I think he actually won the whole thing)


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Bruce improved the dish hugely without losing the essential ideas behind it. We kept the "fish, chips, mushy peas and tomato sauce" idea and the concept of braising the fish rather than the more obvious roasting option, whilst tightening up the presentation. His ideas also meant the dish was far easier to execute on the day, which proved invaluable. It was very exciting to colaborate with Bruce on the dish, and we were both pleased with the final results. We debated the changes and developed the finished product together which was without doubt more "restauranty" than the initial recipe, but better for it in my opinion.

I was involved in two televised heats of the Masterchef competition. The menu and recipe produced here are from the regional final which was judged by chef Alex Floyd, then of Leith's restaurant in London. I think he liked the menu partly for the reasons you stated, but also because I had used things like the parmesan crisp and deep fried leeks which he and many other London chefs were also using at the time.

He was also impressed by the fact that I had made a vegetable stock on the day for use in the risotto and the sauce for the fish (he was one of the very few chefs that created a special vegeterian menu for his Michelin starred restaurant) and he thought my pastry work was excellent.

Shaun was the chef judges for the Semi final round which I did not win. Although Shaun liked my starter and dessert, he felt my main course was unbalalnced. I served breast of pheasent with cider braised cabbage with apples, lentils and madeira sauce and he felt that the cider clashed with the maderia and that it was a little too sweet overall. I would say that the dish tasted fine, and that I would be happy to serve it at home to guests, but that it was not well thought through enough for a competition.

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Ah, I didn't realise Shaun Hill was the Judge for the next round.

I hope he felt guilty when he read your glowing review of the Merchant House on UKGourmet :biggrin:


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I rang Shaun at the restaurant the day after the competition and asked if he could talk me through the judging. I was smarting from the defeat and somewhat in denial and couldn't get my head around why I had lost (although I have to say I thought the other comeptitors were very good, and in fact the winner of the semi final went on to win the competition overall). He very kindly explained the thought processes, and was very complimentary in general about my food so there was no reason for him to feel guilty.

Eating Shaun's food and reading his books has deeply influenced the way I think about food, the way I cook and to a certain extent the way I write, so I am grateful to him for that and have therefore nearly forgiven him for Masterchef. :biggrin:

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Andy, a well conceived, well presented class. Thank you.

A couple of questions.

Have you ever participated in a cooking contest sponsored by a food manufacturer? The Pillsbury Bakeoff is the prototype, but I've also seen contests sponsored by McIlheney (Tabasco sauce) and others. Similar to the Amanda Hesser/Sandra Lee thread, is there an art to using prepackaged ingredients? Would you do it?

Secondly, what the hell are fondant potatos? I thought I had a handle on fondant, but that's the first time I've seen a reference to fondant potatos. Am I missing something (or simply thick)?

Thanks,

Chad


Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Thanks for the kind comments Chad. There has been some really great stuff in the eGCI and I felt a bit nervous about presenting this.

I haven't participated in a competition sponsored by a food company. The closest I have come was a recipe competiton run by something like the Port promotion board (if such a thing exists) and I knocked up "Plum Crumble Tart with Port Sorbet" which sounded good, but which I have never cooked to this day!

I tend to either cook completely from scratch or buy foods that need no further preperation so am not too skilled with the "100 great things to do with a tin of mushroom soup" school of cooking. The secret I am told is to feature the sponsors product heavily, possibly even to the detriment of the recipe itself.

Fondant potatoes are thick slices cooked in butter and a little water. You put raw potatos in a pan with raw butter and some water or stock and allow it to melt. The potatoes must be completely covered by the cooking liquids. You then cook them over a slow heat for 30-45 mins until tender. In theory the water will evaporate and the potatos will then brown in the remaining butter. They are "fondant" because of their meltingly soft texture. The recipe was developed by the Roux brothers I believe. Bruce Pooles version uses only butter though and works just as well, but it requires a hell of a lot of the stuff.

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Resurrecting this course:

For a recipe only contest - how "original" is original. I have a Gumbo-Style Soup soup recipe that I make on a regular basis that I have adapted enough that I really consider it my own. It originally ran in the Washington Post.

I'm now considering entering it in a contest sponsored by a cooking magazine and several manufaturers (at least one of whose products need to be included in the recipe).

The original recipe had nine ingredients. I don't use one of those ingredients and have added four other ingredients (andouille, chicken, green chiles, tomatoes) changing the recipe significantly, but not changing its basic character. I've also changed the way the recipe is written.

Any thoughts on how this would fly?


Bill Russell

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