So much was cramped into the three days of the World Chef Showcase, part of The Sydney International Food Festival, that I am not sure what happened when anymore. And the jet-lag isn’t helping much either.
I can tell you that Sydney’s skies were more than welcoming on my second visit to this charismatic city in less than eight months.
My assistant (and much more than that), Ling, and I spent our first two days pigging out on food without stopping. Dinner at Marque was unique, with beetroot and foie gras macaroon being the absolute highlight. Even better was lunch with Brad, Ex-Ottolenghi Islington, at Bodega tapas bar where sashimi Kingfish on toast with cuttlefish ceviche was king. The brawn (jellied pig’s head) was a good contender to the throne.
On Friday all the big name chefs arrived and we were panicking a bit. We had to do all our prep in various kitchens and then trolley it all through the long corridors and massive lifts of the Star City casino complex, which is, literally, the size of a medium city. But the team, headed by Andrew North, was as helpful as can be, considering a massive group of big-egoed chefs were monopolizing their kitchens and staff, and all (almost... wait for labneh) went smoothly.
On Saturday morning I could even have a quick peek at what others were doing, before getting on with our show, which was, so I’m told, a success. Phew... I demonstrated a baked red mullet, wrapped in Swiss chard, with chreime sauce, braised eggs with lamb, tahini and sumac, and quinoa salad with dried Iranian lime and labneh. A little drama of the yoghurt not draining quick enough to form a lebneh was averted by substituting with feta. Did it work? I did see some happy faces around.
The line-up of chefs over the next couple of days was completely inspiring, but more so were the dishes they came up with. There isn’t enough space here to describe a fraction of all the stupendous things. The images tell half of it (Thanks to Crave Sydney International Food Festival and photographer Belinda Rolland):
Very reluctantly and completely sleep deprived, Ling and I dragged our sorry little faces to breakfast on Harbour Bridge at 6am (!!) on Sunday morning. Despite the rain and the funny anoraks, it was well worth the agony. The site of this awesome construction lined with real grass and strewn with 6000 people all having their breakfast together was fantastic. Only in Australia!
After a quick Q&A session with Joanna Savill, the energetic and completely charming organizer of the festival (oh, and Melly brought me this mind-blowing watermelon and strawberry cake with roses and pistachios from Black Star Pastry), I rushed off to the Ivy complex, where Ling and I, along with a bunch of imaginative, mostly Lebanese and Turkish chefs, prepared (sort of, David O’Brien’s team at the Ivy was more than instrumental) a gala dinner for 200 guests. It was a sweet night, in many ways.
After all the madness of the weekend all we wanted to do is take it easy. And easy we did. Lunch at cafe Sopra at Fratelli Fresh in Waterloo, walk in the botanical garden, Bondi beach, the fish markets and that’s it.
Back home now. Sydney’s a sweet, quickly-blurring memory and so much to do...