TK PART IV TRUFFLE ODYSSEY
The last day has come very quickly! It starts off with another bang, as I have the privilege of tasting Bruno Loubet's food. The first time I ate his food was in 1996, right at the start of my cooking career at his restaurant "L’Odeon" in London. I even remember what I had to eat - an onglet steak with pommes pailles and bearnaise. His cooking engrains itself on your memory - it simply stands out. It’s wonderful to finally meet him and his amazing wife Catherine. Bruno's "edge" now, is that most of his food is vegetarian.... and it's incredible....
“Onion & cider soup, oozing cheese dumplings with fresh truffle”
“Galaux d’Eysines set custard under truffle, sourdough bread sauce and butter fried walnuts & bread”
But it is his impromptu dish of: -
“Potatoes cooked and wrapped in oak leaves, then butter and grated truffles“
that really steals the show for me, it's a symphony of beautiful ingredients that only the most educated palettes would be able to pull out of a hat.
Now as anyone in the trade knows, it can be quite scary flying to the other side of the world, cooking over fire in the middle of a field. Completely out of our comfort zone without the familiar kitchen set up, but I needn't have worried. We had an incredible team of trainee chefs from the local TAFE Without exception they were full of passion and drive, with a team like that - the sky is the limit! The day is made even more amazing as we sit down to a flawless, five course dinner cooked by Sam Aisbett of Whitegrass I am wowed by the quality of his food, especially as he is cooking in a field for 300 people! This is the feast: -
Raw rainbow trout, green apple dashi, horseradish cream, seaweed oil
Salt water poached WA Marron, pickled truffle, fresh curd, herbs and flowers
Steamed truffle custard, potato, toasted nuts and seeds, oxtail and sherry consommé
Slow roasted Beef short rib, shitake, fermented black beans, way too much truffle
Truffle, Milk and honey
Very special cooking, no wonder he just got his first star... The company is not too shabby either...John & Kathy Lethlean.
I ponder my love of truffles. It came quite late in my cooking career. I didn't understand or appreciate them at Gravetye Manor, my junior palette not yet mature enough. It was years later on MasterChef the Professionals, when Michel Roux Junior gave me one from Le Gavroche for one of my dishes that I really started to understand them. Then my cooking at Restaurant Marianne really cemented my love. We introduced a truffle menu one October hoping to sell a few, and mostly, everyone took it. Now even more than ever, I have a sustained, deep love for truffles. What do I love about them? They are rare, mystical, difficult, unpredictable, luxurious, serious, they demand attention.
As I start the long trip home, I feel like I have made some mates for life. The bond you have in the chef industry is like no other. No matter what; - there is a mutual respect and empathy for everyone who works as hard as we do. Life dedication and sacrifice is what it takes to get where we are and that is humbling. I also feel very grateful that I know Zak and Rebekah who were both involved in this "twist of fate" invitation. I am pinching myself about what just happened. I'm fizzing with excitement whilst ticking off a "big bucket" list tick. So I must say, I haven't even gone into detail about the rest of the festival - live music, truffle dog demonstrations and truffle negronis. What is so exciting is to see how versatile the “tuber melansoporum” is - how all of the chefs at TK had such different styles, but we made them sing in our own way. Im happy to report my love of truffles has gone to the next level, and thank goodness - the word “Manjimup” is now rolling off my tongue!
With very special thanks to Max & Sarah :)