Friday, April 20, 2007

Twinkle Winkler Wonder Star

Culinary Master Class
World Gourmet Summit 2007
The Fullerton Hotel

I had the pleasure of being invited as a guest today to one of the Culinary Masterclass Workshops which is part of the variety of programs offered for the current on going World Gourmet Summit (WGS) here in Singapore. As a chef myself, my scope of work often requires me to address an audience during culinary seminars and conduct workshops for both corporate and public audiences. So a rare opportunity like this would be good for me to get a few tips and pointers from watching a three Michelin starred Masterchef in action.

The celebrity in focus is Chef Heinz Winkler from Residenz Heinz Winkler, Germany. He is also the Iconic Chef for this year’s WGS focusing on Cuisine Vitale which combines the style of gourmet cooking that features simplicity and natural flavours of ingredients with fresh herbs and spices. This establishes a well being or wellness element in the art of gastronomy which is the success story of his business.

The demonstration menu was also to become our tasting menu for lunch. The three course menu focused on spring season’s ingredients like salmon and morels paired with wines from Miguel Torres. Before I elaborate further on the tasting menu, I was already gaining valuable points on doing workshops like these for my future references. I must say here in Singapore, most of the time the audiences are not as interactive as the ones I have encountered in US and Europe. People here tend to be more shy and are rather slow to warm up to an interactive session with the chef in action. This happens also many a time in my own workshops too where despite encouraging them to loosen up and be more interactive, you can still see dead serious faces. This is actually the participants’ loss as the chef is here to teach and share, if u don’t take the opportunity to tap on him for expert advice, he/she won't know what you would like to know. Also do not be stingy to show appreciation or give compliments and feedback to chefs who have cooked for you. Many times we forget to compliment the chefs in the kitchen when we have enjoyed our food in the restaurants. It is the same when it comes to workshops. To be honest, real good chefs cook for satisfaction and not money so any compliments or constructive feedback will always motivate us to do better the next round.
Coming back on the menu, Chef Winkler was showcasing to us two recipes from it and this was a Carpaccio of Salmon and Scallops with Lime Dressing while the second dish was a Crepinete of Veal Fillet with a Herb Farce and Fresh Morels.

The Carpaccio was a combination of thin salmon fillets alternated with equally thin slices of Canadian Scallops. A drizzle with lemon juice, lime zest and extra virgin olive oil liven up the taste of the seafood giving it a wake up kiss of citrus fragrance. Finely snipped chives and freshly grounded red peppercorns gave the dish a touch of finesse. The dressing was so good that I could just mop it up with pieces of bread discovering another dimension of nuttiness and citrus synergy with the multigrain loaf. A lovely Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, 2005 Cordillera Maquehua from Miguel Torres complimented the seafood starter. The wine’s acidity took to the citrus notes of the carparccio’s dressing like a fish to water and the wine’s slight herbaceous notes were highlight with the light shower of snipped chives. It was a very clean finish on the palate, taking the seafood in harmony along with it.

With spring in season now, one of natures’greatest culinary gift at this time of the year are fresh morel mushrooms. Found in Europe, China and North America, this wild mushrooms have a woody earthy aromas with springy textures. Considered to be one the most expensive mushrooms in the fungus family after truffles, they have a natural affinity with cream and butter. They make great companions to choice cuts of meats and seafood and are excellent taste enhancers for sauces and gravies. Chef Winkler was very kind to share some fresh varieties with us pass the “gems” around for us to have a feel of this exotic fungus. They almost still the lime light from the highlight of Chef Winkler’s second dish, the Crepinette of Veal Tenderloin with Morels.
This was a dish that would have a moderate level of technical difficulties for home cooks as it involves quite a bit work. Taking finely pureed spinach and fresh herbs like parsley and basil, Chef Winkler mix it up with a smooth blend of chicken breast meat, giving it a herbaceous green tinge. Next, he took a bundle of pig’s caul or pork net as it is more commonly known here and spread it over a cutting board. Using the farce to encrust the season veal tenderloin, it was wrapped with the pig’s caul into a neat little green parcel. Seared in a hot pan, it was further pan roasted to a perfect undercooked doneness before being sliced and paired with a light veal jus.

The morels danced around the elegant cut up parcel and a creamy potato au gratin gave the mushrooms an excellent opportunity to unlock their wonderful flavours when you put a part of each together on your palate. Nonetheless, the complimenting wine, a 2003 Miguel Torres, Cordillera Red performed well with this dish too. A blended New World red, it is a composition of Carbernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah give the wine its necessary black berries fruity notes, spice aromas like dark chocolate, eucalyptus and mace and a pacifying ability to tame the harsh tannins. It took a while for the spices and aromas to evolve but the wine help to cut the richness gratin and the slightly over done but still juicy veal. The demo piece had achieved a better doneness for my personal taste.

On a side note, I must also compliment the excellent bread and fragrant smooth Isigny butter that I had always loved during my days working in south of France. They help to fill the gap between the small portions of the three courses.

An Ice cream of Sour Cream with Rhubarb Compote and Fresh Raspberry was the dessert that saw a late harvest Riesling, a 2004 Miguel Torres Vendimia Tardia coming in to the rescue of a dessert with to many sour components. The home made ice cream was half liquefied by the time it arrived but still took on well to the rhubarb compote despite being in its semi conscious state.

We manage to enjoy the home made pralines presented elegantly on a fine pieces of sugar work. The lovely variety of garnache, liquer and fruit filled chocolate pieces made it a sweet ending to the inspiring lunch of natural flavours, simplicity and culinary elegance. Unfortunately we had to miss the complimentary New Zealand artisan cheeses sampling as we were pressed for time to be back in office for a meeting. Next time we should be wiser to allow an extra half an hour for unforeseen surprises like cheese tasting.

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