I was confirmed to participate in the competition representing the school. Full of excitement and not knowing of whats going to be ahead... how simple minded of me.
Full of amateur experiments that now when i look back, i laugh at myself for coming up with that. I guess one competition alone will really improve the way u think and come up with a dish.
Time is running out, going to settle on the menu and ingredients and most importantly fix the final dish. However i was not ready. Every now and then i come across different ingredient prepared in different ways that i want to add into my dish. I can never fix on an idea, i always have something new to add on... This is bad as i don't know when to stop.
With more experiment and now decided on the main component which is salmon, one day i actually bought a whole salmon (4.6kg) to fabricate and study it. from its cheek, belly, top loin, bottom loin, skin... every part has potential to become a delicious meal. Initially my idea was to use the belly but due to the fact that one fish only has that small belly and it is going to be real expensive to get sashimi grade. Because i am so Singaporean (kiasu) i love to practice so much, i have to settle for top loin which is the second best choice to the belly.
God knows how much salmon top loin i bought. Fried, deep fried, pan seared, poach, shallow poach, steam, oven baked, confit, sous vide... i tried them all. Every method has its pros and con. for now i settled with pan seared then finish in the oven.
With frequent trips to Ion threesixty market place, Jasons, Jones the grocer, the market place, cold storage @ great world city, ntuc finest and isetan supermarket, i am slowly depleting my bank account. I just had to practice and experiment. Now to cut cost, for simple items i just go straight to supplier at pasir panjang wholesale market to get my stuff. Must really thanks Desmond from Fresh Direct for always providing things i need. even if its just for a box of micro green, no problem at all.
Starting to feel the effect of the competition to me. For the past few months, i have been working 4 days, school 2 days and 1 rest day. and every day after school i would go to the supplier and get stuff to practice on and for the rest day i would make it a point to experiment.
How to make croquette from a raw potato if u have only 1h in competition? That the main challenge i have so far. I have tried numerous methods but non work out well... One day i was at work, a thought just ran thru my mind while i was making rosti and i went home to experiment on that. it works! The problem i had was the potato wasn't binding well when they were still hot after i mash them up. if i add too much binding agent like egg and bread crumb, i dun like the texture. All i had to do was simply dry the potato thats it! then i proceed to experiment on pan frying potato by tossing them around in heat, i manage to get a drier mash to work with. even without binding agent, it holds well! then second problem i had was how to make it cool enough to handle when i need to pan fry them? then i suddenly thought of the tiramisu lesson i had with Angela where she taught me the "pate a bomb" techinque applied while making tiramisu. there is a part where we need to whisk in sugar in soft ball stage into the egg yolk and whisk it till it cools down. Then i was thinking why not use my kitchen aid with K beater to do my mash and later to cool it down? in between that i can have time to do other task too! and that took me so long but just in time to figure out :)
21st April 2010:
The eve of D Day... i was actually more excited then ever to be doing this. Thinking back i had learn so much because of the competition when i was researching for dish, looking for supplies and practicing all sorts of things. Although is was really tough and sometimes i really felt like crying, all these pain i went thru are worth it. If there is another competition i would definitely sign up for it!
Did my mise en place in school, finished it within 4h and went back home to finalize my recipe and print them out. Geared up all ready for D day!
22nd April 2010:
Early in the morning i carry my barang barang to the school and getting ready to pack up and go. I inspect my ingredients, making sure all were perfect so i could have a peace of mind. Those which were not, i redo them on the spot.
Journey towards Singapore expo was a really long one. My heart is pounding, my hands are shaking, not of nervous but of excitement! :)
Reach the place and unload my barang barangs then getting ready to go.
Later someone told me "Ok kitchen 3 is ready, u go there. u have 10 mins to setup everything."
I went in with chef wilson helping me to set up my station, i quickly took everything out and get it in place.
Once the whole thing start, nothing went according to plan. Water for blanching is not boiling, bane mari not hot enough and i screw up the potato because they were not cooked enough to mash. In the end i had to put it into the oven to steam it since i don't have my hot water anymore to boil the potato. I strain the hot water into the bane mari to up the temperature of the water in the bane mari. Above all, I took 1h 7mins which means i'm late for 7 min. I was so upset about everything until one of the judge came to look for me and talk to me in private.
First thing he asked, first competition? hahah.. spot on. Then he say its like that for the first because it is not easy to work in a kitchen you are not familiar with. then he ask me what were the problems. I mention about the water not boiling then he ask me which number did i turn to. Logically, if on the stove there is number 1, 2 and 3, everyone will assume 3 is the hottest. turns out i was wrong. 1 is the hottest and he said something i think i will remember for life, "never assume". Then i follow by saying i screw up the timing because i screwed up the mash. But he said to me it was a good effort and quick thinking of me to make full use of the combi oven steam function when one way doesn't work there is always an alternative. He kinda like the idea of me being able to keep composed and think on the spot and even encourage me to come back 2 year later to prove to him i can do it. Really very encouraging guy. But i must also thank chef Justin in school because he was the one in school that morning who reminded me that things like this could happen and always try to salvage the situation and not sulk then give up.
Lastly he mention about how i should go about for the next one. Go simple, focus mainly on taste and get my basics right and solid. Don't have to use lobster and caviar to win this thing, one guy from Malaysia won a silver with cod wrap in parma ham pan fried. I mean i did this before too but i thought it was too common. Then the judge said, it is common but not everyone does it well. Same like frying an egg is simple but how to make a good omelet, scramble egg or sunny side up takes skills. This was a good wake up call to bring me down to earth and start thinking simplicity.
Overall it was really hell of an experience i learn. But somehow i felt there is so much more to learn. i wanna know them all!
Pictures of the Journey :)
Initial stage was of course planning, research and development. Heres 3 pages out of 4 a4 size sketchbook i use. yeah. its full of rough ideas and crappy drawings of mine...
An experiment carried out in Feb to make use of salmon skin and see how i can shape it...
One of the practice plate i did. Chef wilson didn't like it but chef randy said if i refine it a little it has potential for bronze medal. I was so confused at that point of time i totally scrap the idea and redo my dish.
One of the practice and food presentation in school. Was really glad when chef megel said it looks promising and has potential, i was so happy. But reality strike me when chef randy said some pointers in detail which gave the the real headache and later on become the final product. He mention something like this plate looks ok but texture wise feel very soft. Need some contrast in texture, something crispy. so i went back to my sketchbook and online research and looking at tonnes of recipe book.
In the end i changed the starch to a croquette and stuffed it with the lobster claw i had. I would be a waste if i just use the lobster tail.
No pics of the final product but its similar to the 2 picture above :) one day i shall redo the dish :)
and no joke, i did this. Listing out all the task, making my mise en place more organized and fast. I split up my dish into components then list down task required to do according to ingredients.
Then i did a time line like how i was taught in secondary school F&N class. Back in those days, Mrs Quek emphaise on the importance of a well planned timeline and to follow it so on the actual day of exam less stress as you feel more prepared.
Helping my buddy matthew to do gelatin work for his display dish. stay in school till after 1am and i am totally KO after that. Had to think of a way to keep the dish clean but can't cling wrap directly on it as the gelatin is not dried yet... I came up with this cling wrap tentage hahaha.... it was a fun night and we had so much laughter... hahaha...
baby bell pepper lollipop. So much things i learn along the way and also keeping the fundamentals. Serving bell pepper without skin is basic but removing it has many ways. or at least i know 4 methods that worked.
Competitor can't wear uniform that has company/school logo. i got myself a plain one :)
Barang Barang i'm bringing. Although the school has them, i feel more at ease using my own knowing i brought them along :)
Well i still keep this tag in my car to remind me the day my first culinary competition. I went in felt so prepared but still unexpected things do happen.
After my competition was over, i went to walk around and saw sean competing in "dress the cake" competition. He really focus well, totally no eye contact with audience at all for 1h!
Simple yet nice looking illusion of food floating in a plate.