Thursday, April 24, 2008

...woohoo! A cooking class with Adriano Zumbo!

It is the inaugural Balmain Rozelle Food Week (April 21-27), and there is an intriguing lineup of events to highlight the range of food offerings and providores in the Balmain/Rozelle community. Great idea!

These include classes, workshops and tastings at places like the Three Weeds, The Barn, Aboutlife, and special offers at caf├ęs and restaurants like Rosso Pomodoro, Efendy, Bertoni and Victoire (I walked past Victoire a few times and it looked tres french, with candles in paper bags on the tables outside and people sipping glasses of wine).

But the event that JUMPED out at me were the ‘Adriano Zumbo cooking classes: A rare chance to learn and feed on the ornate creations of patissier extraordinaire, Adriano Zumbo’. I managed to score a place in the ‘J’adore les gateaux – secrets unveiled’ class to see what it was about (the web description was a bit vague). I mean, I’ve eaten the cake, and now I really want to see the movie.

Well, it was held in the Zumbo kitchen/factory in Rozelle, which is a large room with stainless steel workspace in the centre and coolroom and storerooms off it. There’s an industrial oven and stove as well. The scene was, to be kind, sort of organised chaos, with the 15 or so attendees given an apron teatowel and a recipe sheet and told to go for it. In groups, we were given the task of making various components of a cake and tart. I think some level of competency in the kitchen was required though not exactly spelled out… I was just excited that we could use the Kitchenaid mixers.

We ‘contributed’, shall we say, to a coconut and coriander cake while other groups made a ginger and basil cake. Unusual flavour combinations are a feature of Zumbo’s creations, and these 2 cakes mixed the tradition of a loaf cake with the exoticness of herbs like coriander and basil. And they worked, of course, really wonderful taste and moistness.

Then we attempted a tart, with different groups responsible for the pate sable, lemon curd, soft caramel, choc mousse and praline feulletine noisette parts of the tart. Because we were making lots of tarts, the amounts of ingredient were largeish – 1kg of flour and 600g of butter for the pate sable; not sure I would try this at home!

But then it all came together and we were amazed that all that running around and spilled sugar could result in something so, well, professional-looking! Mind you, watching Adriano’s skill at making chocolate curls for the crown of the tart really topped it off. In the end, the session went for 3 hours instead of the advertised 2, but we did need the time to do it all.

Seeing how things worked in a commercial kitchen was fascinating for those who haven’t experienced it before. Apart from us amateurs tripping over ourselves and licking hazelnut paste off the spoons, we saw Adriano and his chefs assembling well-known favourites such as Miss Marple.
And though you realise that the actual cooking and baking part isn’t that hard, you can’t help thinking – wow, how did he come up that that idea, and ooh, that looks amazing, there’s no way I could do that (which is probably why there’s always a queue at the shop).

So the mystique is still there. What I’d really like is for Adriano and team to run courses more often, so that we could experience the thrill of turning out the works of art that he does so frequently. Though, by the state we left the kitchen in last night, he and his team are probably saying ‘oh god, never again’!

PS: I don't know if a version of our cooking class effort will make it into the shop (maybe with some 'tweaking'?). Please let me know if you see it, though.


Lorraine E said...

Hey Belle-I was there! I was the one with the camera taking the photos all night. I had no idea you were going to be there or I'd have said hello!

Belle said...

lorraine - I would have loved to talked to you. You looked so professional with the camera and all! Your photos are great (most of mine are blurred because I was trying to take photos at with cake batter on my hands).

Lin Mei said...

Sounds and looks fantastic Belle! Great visual diary btw.

Ooh, look at this, too...