The old saying that everything old is new again has never disappeared. Constantly we see fashion showing old designs with a new twist to suit us in our era. The same is true in the world of food and wine and especially for us cooks/Chefs.
Last week I was very happy to be a judge at the HTN & ACF Apprentice Chefs’ Culinary Competition run annually by ACF (NSW/ACT) and HTN at Ryde TAFE and I was impressed with the ability of the competitors. It was a very well conducted competition with judges from ACF, LCB and TAFE.
The judges discussed the fact that techniques that are time honoured were on show. Techniques that I was taught in 1970, nearly 50 years ago at East Sydney Food School, the forerunner to Ryde Campus. And the competitors using these techniques were 2nd and 3rd apprentices.
Gnocchi being made by hand and piped into the simmering water – excellent. There was a brilliant example of a Lemon Meringue Pie with excellent short crust pastry; and I watched in awe as individual Pavlovas came together by hand. It made me very happy that a young apprentice would whisk the meringue with a balloon whisk and not an electronic implement.
Look I know it is slower than mechanical and it is good to do it but a machine which is certainly quicker. However, to be able to prepare food using older methods shows knowledge, skill and patience.
Knowing what to do comes from training and having that knowledge is crucial to being an all rounder and that is what training is meant to provide – a cook/Chef who can adapt to any cooking situation. If you watch Heston enough you will know that he uses time honoured cooking techniques as a basis to the magic he performs.
Perhaps you may be tired of training and learning but as you age and continue cooking, you will never forget what you learnt and come to be very glad you were taught. The winner of competitions 3rd year category had brought with him all the bells and whistles…suos vide and other modern implements but he still used technical knowhow with the modern appliances.
Yesterday, I proudly turned out a choux pastry to make Cream Puffs and that process took me back 50 years to when I first learnt how to make that brilliant pastry with its unique properties. Extraordinary and all done by hand; the Cream Puffs were just delicious. Learning and training in all methods and ages is the best thing to ever happen to you in cooking.