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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Lunch(es) at the Ledbury

Recently, i was lucky enough to attend a lunch arranged by a trade magazine at the Ledbury in Notting Hill, London, where head chef Brett Graham has been awarded two michelin stars for his cuisine. The meal was arranged for a monday, and after setting off to london at a ludicrously ungodly hour from cardiff, i spent the whole morning's train journey anticipating the meal.
I was not disappointed, and my fellow diners were also suitably impressed and we spent several hours ooh-ing and aah-ing as each new course was unveiled.
Having had such a great time and enjoyed so many (six) courses, i sent Brett (i feel we are close enough to use first names.) an email thanking him for the meal and letting him know i was planning on putting some of the food photos i took onto twitter (@chefbennett01 if your into it...). the nest day i received a reply, thanking me for attending, and asking me to get in touch should i return to london in the future so that the team at the ledbury could look after me. this was too good an offer to refuse, so the following month i made arrangements for myself and a good friend to pop in for a lunch and notified Brett via email.
we arrived at the Ledbury bang on 12 o'clock and were instantly greeted as though we were old aquaintances by Sarah and the rest of the front of house team, and offered a glass of champagne as a welcome. very shortly after this, Brett himself came up from the kitchen and chatted with us for a while as other guests started to take seats around us. My guest and I were offered a tasting menu by Brett and he promised to look after us- which he did in abundance.
what followed was an astonishing tour of his a la carte menu, mostly half portions shared between us, and each course was more impressive than the last, right up to the last plates which were the three most popular desserts on the menu for the two of us to share.
some of the dishes were startlingly simple- the scallop ceviche with seaweed oil and frozen horseradish comes to mind, and some were a lot more intricate- a pigeon dish comprising rare roast breast, smoked leg, brochette of heart, lung and liver, roast kidney, foie gras and a grelotte onion tart tatin, but no matter how plain or well dressed a dish was, one thing was the same- the flavours were amazing. the simple ones didnt need anything else, and the more complicated ones were totally balanced and complimented themselves beautifully.
other favourites were seared mackerel with cucumber and shiso, squid and pine nut 'risotto'- the squid was cut to look like rice and warmed in a cauliflower puree, celeriac baked in ash (in a salt crust pastry) with a wild boar kromesqi (fritter), and hereford snails in an herb mousse with pickled carrots and oxtail.
without a doubt, mr Graham (back to the formality) is cooking some of the most imaginitive and the most technically stunning food in london and probably the whole of the U.K. right now. if you get the chance to go, do it! you will not be disappointed.

Monday, 12 July 2010

filming for channel 5

my episode can be seen on-line at channel 5. please watch it if you get time- i am very proud of it.

so, a few weeks ago i got a call from a lovely lady called Nicky who works for a company called 'Hotbed media' who were interested in my participating in a show they are making for channel 5 called 'street market chefs'. It wasnt a straightforward invitation for a few reasons, including the staff shortage at work which meant i had to make arrangements for cover there and then go in and work after a long days filming too. As well as all that, i didn't know for certain i would be involved until two days before filming as there were a few chefs in the running for the filming of what was the first episode to be filmed for the series. I submitted a copy of my C.V., sent a few food photo's and some links to food videos i made a few months previously as well as four recipes which they were to choose from. Then i waited.
and waited. and got fed up and emailed them. and waited.
then, on the monday evening (we were due to film on the wednesday and thursday...) i got the shout from nicky that, yes they would like to offer me a place on the show, cooking two courses in front of the cameras and talking about the dishes with the lovely host, Amanda Lamb.

a crew came to the hotel and spent about two hours doing 'stylised shots' of me, the hotel and the boys in the kitchen going through their jobs and getting ready for lunch service. Although quite time consuming, this was fun and a good experience. it also meant that having met the main members of the crew, i was a lot more relaxed than i thought i would be on the thursday. doing lots of shots of the same thing from several different angles and general repitition can be surprisingly tiring, and even though that was only a few shots for the opening titles etc it was a long day before the main event on....
Thursday.having been instructed to be at the Abergavenny market hall at around 9a.m. i had to get to work for 7 to give me time to check my lists, get all the ingredients and equipment i needed. despite double and triple checking my lists, i still managed to miss a few things off the lists, including a bottle opener, rolling pin and my blow torch. surprisingly important little things, which i overlooked.
as soon as i arrived at the hall, i was made very welcome by Nicky and Hannah (producer) and was assigned my own 'helper' in the shape of 'little' hannah, who was the shows home economist and all round good girl, literally running to the local hotel to pick up my forgotten items, and applying my plaster when i cut my finger two minutes into filming! luckily it was only a nick, but it was annoying none the less.
the whole day was great fun, and the time really flew by, making a whole day seem like just a couple of hours. meeting all the local suppliers who work at the market was also rewarding, some of whom i already knew and use at the hotel, but also a few who i didnt, but am now in talks with.
after filming the two of us cooking our dishes, we had a brief 'questions and answers' session with a few of the audience members, and then there was a break whilst the judges made their decisions and then we filmed a brief ending, where the winner was presented with a prize, and the judges critiqued the dishes. this was a good part, as it is always interesting to hear what people think of your performance, especially informed people like iain sampson, who was one of the judges and was recently crowned 'wales chef of the year'.
at the end of the day, i was happy with the food i cooked, and pretty pleased with the way i felt i came across on camera. although i am not allowed to talk about anything which may be constituted a 'result' on the day, i wanted to share my experience on here. as soon as i find out when 'my' show is aired (the series starts in september, but may be shown in a different order to filming) i will be letting everyone know about it, and then once it has been on, i will discuss the day in more detail.