A great place to dine is never too far away. In fact, it might just be waiting for you patiently at your local club. In the past, clubs haven’t really been in the spotlight of the culinary world but it may come as a surprise that you may be able to find some amazing talent lurking in their kitchens.
Although I am new to this culinary advancement within this hidden world, Chef’s Table Awards have been on this gig for a long time. They encourage chefs of all backgrounds to create amazing dishes in competition with others within the region. This year there was no shortage of skill. Each region gave their absolute best and if it were up to me, I’d have given them all the gold!
The 2016 Chef’s Table Awards was hosted at the Epping Club by Pete Evens (who you may recall from his role on My Kitchen Rules) and judged by Peter Newell, Julio Azzarello, Adam Moore and Courtney Roulston. Many times over they’ve noted how difficult it was to judge the competition due to the outstanding show of skill from every contestant.
All the excitement began prior to entering the ballroom. We were entertained with some canapés like this flaming roll of cheese, heated up to be enjoyed with the seeded crackers and fruit paste.
Inside, the function room was decked with purples, silvers and blacks, making it feel like a first class event. The awards night followed the running theme ‘A Touch Of Spice’ which can be expected in the three courses to come.
The feast began with an entrée of either a house-smoked Tasmanian salmon with sumac, pineapple and garden bits or a warm tandoori-spiced quail, roasted cumin-infused lemon rice, and Goan coconut curry. The spices were definitely more prominent in the tandoori-spiced quail than it was with the salmon but both dishes were delightful.
The quail and curry dish was a warm entree while the Tasmanian salmon was a contrasting refresher. The curry was very much a tummy warmer but the zesty characteristics in the rice brought it away from being too heavy of a starter. The Tasmanian salmon took on a lighter direction and was well complemented by the sumac spice and the pineapple.
The mains brought to the table included a smoked dry-aged Kilcoy rump cap with Christmas vadouvan spice, onion and prune. The slight sweetness from the vegetables and kick of spice from the vadouvan touched each part of my palette while the rump was tender, passing a hint of smokiness.
The alternate main was a paupiette of snapper fillet with cottaged cheese, makahani sauce (a tomato cream, butter based sauce) and preserved lemon chutney. The spiral of snapper fillet was flaky and mild in flavour, taking on a lighter attribute aided by the lemon chutney.
When reading the banquet menu, the desserts didn’t spark any interests as they were blandly labeled as chocolate or a rice pudding. But I was fooled. The table was graced with alternate drops of a chocolate mousse or a rice pudding. But not just any mousse or pudding. These sweet treats, without surprise, weren’t shy of any spices, all were well flavoured and neither overly sweet combined with other great ingredients.
The chocolate mousse shared its plate with mandarins, apricot, carrot and cardamon. All well complementing and together easily enjoyed. The mandarins were possibly freeze dried and offered that citrus cut through the sweetness of the mousse and adding texture in every spoonful. The cardamon brought upon another dimension to the dessert and quite possibly making this my favourite one.
The rice pudding was spiced up with delicate flavours of rose and saffron. It was dressed with a touch of nuttiness from the pistachio cream. The waffle basket it was sitting on was lined with chocolate and provided a crunch to the thick pudding. This was such a beautiful dessert, so much so that it had to be detailed with a luxurious gold leaf!
Although the night followed through with great meal, it was more than just about the banquet. It was about the talent that filled the room and celebrating the culinary greatness that is happening in the club industry. There were four awards to be presented to talented chefs and apprentices from clubs across NSW. We were delighted with stories about how the menus came about and the kind of experiences and influences that inspired these award winners. The evening was filled with entertainment, laughter, first class food and applause.
With big congratulations to Oakland Golf Club for the Apprentice Award, Dubbo RSL winning the Bronze award, Western Suburbs Leagues Club New Lambton awarded for silver and last but definitely not the least, Gold for the amazing West Mayfield. Also Congratulating all the participants for all their efforts. Without a doubt the club industry can only get better and better every year with this kind of talent.
For more information on the Chef’s Table Competition, go to chefstable-clubsnsw.com