I've been very lucky to attend two cooking classes recently, both in professional kitchens. The first, a pork crackling masterclass, was held in an intimate kitchen at Restaurant Atelier - where two (sometimes three) chefs work closely to produce fine French food. The cooking class at Chophouse, in Sydney's CBD, was a whole different kettle of...steak. Head Chef Eric Tan leads a kitchen team of 16 in a kitchen nearly big as my apartment! This team work under the pump every single service to turn out all things meat...along with some poultry!
I was very fortunate to be one of six bloggers invited to a Poultry Masterclass being held just for us at Chophouse - a cavernous and dark steakhouse nestled discreetly under an office building on Bligh Street in the city. The main dining room sits under an huge arch of curved wood, making me feel a bit like I'm a player in Jonah in the Whale (or Jonah in the Great Big Cow). It's a great space - large, but cosy at the same time and it feels a little French Provencal to me.
At the class Chef Eric Tan along with his two Sous Chefs, Elliott and Matt, are showing us "how to treat our birds right". The Chefs all think this play on words is hilarious. Given these guys work around 17 hours each day their real life birds (ie their girlfriends) are often long-suffering and a little neglected. One of the Chefs has come up with the perfect solution to this - date a Chef!
|From left: Sous Chef Elliot, Head Chef Eric Tan and Sous Chef Matt|
All of the poultry served at Chophouse is Free Range, mostly from Thirlmere Poultry and during the beginning of our class Urban Food Market arrive dropping off our birds in a cardboard box (not recommended treatment for your real-life "birds", fellas). As well as the free-range birds, the pork at Chophouse is free-range, all the eggs used are free-range and there is a good selection of pasture fed beef. Why have I not been here before?
To kick things off we are shown how to debone a chicken. Not sure I'd be able to manage this unsupervised at home - it seems easier for the novice cook like me just to leave the bones in and eat around them! If I doubt my technical abilities at deboning a chook, then the poor quail that is the next-bird to receive the deboning treatment by these expert chefs would stand no chance in my kitchen.
|Chook and quail...both deboned.|
The quail is poached in the most divine smelling master-stock (twice) before it is given the deep-fry treatment in readiness of our lunch. The finished product is a truly wonderful piece of quail - delicate, full of wonderful flavours from the Masterstock and super crunchy from it's stint in the deep-fryer.
The deboned chicken is stuffed with a sourdough crumb - the stuffing goes under the skin and chicken is tender, moist with a crispy skin. Sublime.
Something I CANNOT wait to try at home is a poached chicken in a simple stock that Chef Eric showed us (AND this particular chook goes in bones and all)! The dish is fairly simple to prepare yet is so full of flavour. The chicken is SO moist and I love the simple salad of Coriander with a Shitake Mushroom dressing that accompanies it.
We are also shown the best way to pan-fried Duck Breast - something I'm also very keen to try at home. Duck is something that has always scared me - in terms of cooking it at home, though I've also met some pretty scary Ducks so lets just say that Ducks can be a bit freaky both in and out of the kitchen. The pan-fried Duck Breast, along with some Confit Duck that was prepared earlier, both go into a beautiful salad of leaves, candies pecans and blue cheese. Wow!
Spending time in a working restaurant kitchen is a real privilege - especially for an office drone like me. It's a peak into the world of the professional chef, a chance to see their passion for their careers and the produce they work with. It's a chance to appreciate how much hard work, effort, blood, sweat and tears goes into the food I enjoy so much when dining out.
Chophouse is at 25 Bligh Street, Sydney. Phone them on 13 0024 6748.