Mark takes his first foray into a professional kitchen – Brasted’s
Our man is in a pro kitchen
Iwas delighted when managing director Nick Mills and executive chef Chris ‘Buzz’ Busby agreed to my request as I really wanted to experience (and then try to describe) a professional kitchen at full throttle. And Brasted’s would be at full throttle, hosting a charity night organised by the Norfolk branch of the Lord’s Taverners in its award-winning Framingham Pigot restaurant.
I first meet chef a month before the event, where former England and Kent cricket captain Chris Cowdrey is to be the guest speaker. I am given a brief tutorial on costings, timings and the all-important allergens before we look at the food options.
John Brasted opened his first restaurant on St Andrew’s Hill in Norwich in 1984, moving to the exquisite barns at Framingham Pigot in 1999. His philosophy of ‘great company, fabulous food and wonderful wines as often as possible’ is something I find difficult to disagree with, but on the day of the dinner, I know I must play my part in delivering on that promise to nearly 100 hungry diners.
I arrive at lunchtime where my knife skills are put to the test, portioning 200 pieces of salmon fillet. They are seared, 10 at a time, in two frying pans. I dig deep, recalling from my student days an ability to perform a ‘ten-ten turn-lay’ of McDonald’s burgers. There are no other comparisons to draw.
I then prepare the cold canapés including one with cucumber, a blue cheese mousse and a sticky bacon and chilli jam that oozes flavour and sophistication. Thankfully, my efforts pass chef’s demanding eye for detail. No canapé can be more than a millimetre (or two) higher than its neighbours.
By the time I have set them out, the proper chefs are finalising the smoked duck starter. There are nearly 100 plates, each corresponding exactly to the photo Buzz has stuck to the wall. Pickled vegetables cut through
the rich bird. Micro leaves, edible flowers and at least two sauces make up the dish.
And then I not only witness, but take part in, the culinary monsoon whereby 100 hot meals are served in a matter of minutes. A potato cake, two pieces of (beautifully-seared) salmon, a mango salsa and samphire are drafted onto awaiting plates by rapid and knowledgeable hands that seem to number far more than double the amount of staff behind me.
I am given the privilege of adding the buttery sauce at the pass. Those moments were everything I hoped they would be.
The service ends with the assembling of dessert; frozen chocolate tubes filled with a creamy mousse, adorned by honeycomb, blow-torched fruit and various intricate additions. Again, every plate resembles exactly the photo on the wall.
I collapse with a beer to the sound of laughter from the dining room in which Mr Cowdrey is speaking. The stars of the show however, for me at least, are Buzz’s team of chefs. [Editor’s note: It was all delicious!]
ABOVE: Mark in full flight helping to assemble the intricate dessert