You know how it is. You spend the morning rubbing shoulders with ten famous chefs and then in the afternoon you are forced to get up close and personal with another five talented and generous chefs. How does a blogger cope?
Such was the delicious dilemma for TIFFIN when I was invited to the ‘Plate Up’ for the Starlight Foundation’s 5 Chef’s Dinner, to be held on June 5th at the Sofitel Brisbane. The Starlight Foundation transforms the lives of seriously ill children and their families, throughout Australia. With programs such as the ‘Starlight Express Room’ – a haven inside the hospital; ‘Captain Starlight’ – whose job is to bring smiles to sick children by entertaining and engaging them; and, ‘Starlight Wish Granting’ – granting special once in a life time wishes, Starlight relies on fundraising activities, donations and sponsorship from supporters.
One of Starlight’s chief fundraisers is the 5 Chef’s Dinner where talented and respected Chefs give their time and talent for free to create a wonderful menu for this black tie event. Nearly 500 CEOs, Senior Executives and philanthropists attend the dinner each year to taste the best of what Brisbane has to offer and to bid on a range of amazing auction prizes such as a Luxury LA Getaway or, Degustation Dinner for 10 at a Hatted Chef’s Restaurant. The venue, food, wine and auction prizes are also donated to make sure that all funds raised can be used to brighten the lives of these children.
The Chefs cooking for this year’s Brisbane dinner are:
- Alejandro Cancino – Urbane
- Shinichi Maeda – Sake
- Tony Percuoco – Tartufo
- Patrice Falatin- Sofitel Brisbane Central
- Cameron Matthews – The Long Apron of Spicers, Montville
- Zen Catering are also on board, providing pre-dinner canapes
To ensure a top class menu and to make sure everything runs smoothly on the night, in the lead up the Chefs come together for a plating session. Each Chef has a signature dish they are preparing but needs to ensure it’s in harmony with the other dishes, has the right wine match, is able to be readily plated by the kitchen and arrives at the table as the Chef intended. After a briefing by Chef Falatin on the afternoon ahead, the plates available at the venue were set out and each Chef selected the plate to suit their dish. Round or rectangular? Plate or bowl? On this occasion the Chefs had brought along their dishes pre-prepared, so they could be warmed or finished in the pan and plated in the desired format, with accompaniments and garnish. Within twenty minutes, the dishes were laid out to be discussed, dissected and tasted.
Like all self respecting foodies, each dish was photographed by several of the Chefs, prior to tasting. Some of the photos would be referred to on the evening to ensure consistency across the hundreds of dishes being prepared and to ensure the dish remained true to the Chef’s interpretation.
Starting with the canapes, each Chef explained their dish, the key components and cooking techniques. What temperature had the dish been baked at? – could it be done 20c lower to slow the cooking time to fit in with other preparation? How long could the dish sit on the plate and keep it’s form? What about if the bowl was changed to a ramekin – could more fit in an oven? How long would the cold components remain chilled? – what if there was a 10 minute delay? – would the components need to be refrigerated? And so it went on as we travelled along the table, tasting each dish.
Chefs such as Tony Percuoco from Tartufo had previously participated in Starlight plating sessions and helped move the afternoon along. He encouraged others to dig in and elicited opinions on sauces and wine matches. Debate about the dessert and how many of the elements needed to be added at the last possible minute saw him engaging with the manager of the service staff. Decisions such as what must be done in the kitchen and what can be done in the staging area and, the ratio of staff delivering vs. staff waiting at the tables to add the final flourish were all up for discussion to make sure the evening runs like clockwork. The Chefs noted the tweaks and changes to be made to their dishes or plating and discussed when they would arrive on the day and who they could or should bring along. If a Chef needs to bring along an additional 6 staff to make the dish a sparkling success, they will.
Chef Falatin closed the plating session by encouraging the Chefs to prepare for the actual presenting of the dish. Each Chef will go on stage to describe the dish and the inspiration behind it so that diners get the opportunity to see the names behind the meals. Starlight, The Sofitel and the 5 Chefs will do everything they can to create a fabulous event for those in attendance. A final photo call in the official Starlight Chef’s Whites brought a humorous close to the afternoon, with some jackets being just a little too tight around the chest and abs. They’ll have to go back to the tailor before the big day to make sure the Chefs can comfortably work in them.
Interested in knowing what’s on the menu? Keen to find out where the auction prize Hatted Restaurant is? The only way to really know is to attend and contribute to this sparkling event.
Starlight 5 Chefs Dinner
Thursday 5th June 2014
Sofitel Brisbane Central
Purchase tickets from Starlight Brisbane on: (07) 3456 0400 and speak with Caroline
Can’t make it to the 5 Chefs Dinner?
Donate to the Starlight Foundation: www.starlight.org.au