Chefs on Tour and a cooking class


Imagine Carlos Santana teaching you to play the guitar. Or having Lewis Hamilton as your driving instructor! Awesome? That's what we felt when Chef Saulo taught us to make pasta from scratch and Chef Lars a typical German meal. Can you get a better teacher than a true blue Italian chef? Is anything better than a masterclass by a German chef?

Executive Chefs Greg, Saulo and Lars

Masters of Food and Wine (http://park.hyatt.com/en/parkhyatt/masters.html) is a popular series of programmes organised by Park Hyatt hotels in India. Chefs on Tour is one of the events where two executive chefs travel to a third Hyatt location on a rotational basis to host unique culinary experiences. In the present series, Executive Chef Saulo Bacchilega of Park Hyatt Goa and Executive Chef Lars Windfuhr, Park Hyatt Hyderabad along with Executive Chef Grzegorz Odolak of Park Hyatt Chennai presented interactive culinary experiences which included a Wine Dinner and a family-style Sunday Brunch. There was also a cooking class where we were going to learn to make pasta and a German meal of braised meat and potato dumplings. As it was a larger group this time around, the class was held at the Flying Elephant, PHC's multi-level restaurant.

Mashing potatoes in a food mill

The making of gnocchi

Gnocchi tossed through sage butter

We were a serious group of students watching Chef Saulo put boiled potatoes through a food mill to make gnocchi. But we couldn't stay serious for long as the chef started cracking jokes and that cracked us all up. He told us his mother knew exactly 5 recipes and he had learnt them all. The potatoes were mixed with flour and eggs yolks and kneaded into a smooth dough. He showed us how to form them into gnocchi and then let us loose amongst the carefully divided bits of dough. When they were all shaped somewhat like the ones he made, he showed us how to cook them and later, made sage butter and tossed the pretty little dumplings through it. Before serving, Parmesan cheese was grated over the top. Delizioso! All that was needed was an aria by Puccini.

And that wasn't all. To make pasta fresca, a mound of flour, semolina and eggs were kneaded by hand into pasta dough. It was then wrapped in cling film and left to rest for a while.

The making of beef rolls

At the next station, Chef Lars had organised the ingredients for rindsroularden or beef roll, sweet and sour red cabbage and potato dumplings. A little mustard was spread on the thin slices of beef, bacon and pickle placed atop and then it was rolled and a toothpick pushed through to keep it all in place. The meat was seared in a hot pan and then mirepoix added, along with stock. When it came to a boil, a lid was placed on it and it was dispatched into the oven for a long, slow cook. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait too long as the chef had made a potful ahead.

Rotkhol

Next, he showed us how to make rotkhol - braised red cabbage. There were just a few ingredients - cabbage, apple and onions along with seasonings and that pot too went into the oven. Out came one he had done earlier - the cabbage had cooked down and smelt divine!

Kartofelkloesse

Germans love potatoes and we were in for a treat when Chef Lars showed us how to make kartofelkloesse - potato dumplings. Flour, mashed potato, semolina and eggs were mixed into a dough, shaped into dumplings with a crouton in the centre and then cooked in boiling water.

Cold cucumber soup with smoked salmon

But what's a meal without soup? Chef Lars' kalte gurkensuppe mit räucherlachsstreifen - chilled cucumber soup with smoked salmon - is one that is extremely popular in Germany during the summer months when temperatures soar to around 30°C. Which should make it perfect for Chennai's 40°C+ summer temperatures! Lots of cucumber, yoghurt and buttermilk were blended into a pale greenish mixture and then topped with smoked salmon and cress. It tasted just as it looked - light and delicious! 

Pasta fresca!

Back at Chef Saulo's station, we watched him roll out pasta. He gave the eager beavers among us a rolling pin and a piece of dough to roll while he used a pasta machine to do the same job. We learnt that it was the Italians introduced ravioli and stuffed pastas to the world but noodles were probably invented by the Chinese and introduced to Italy by Marco Polo. After rolling them out, the sheets of dough were cut and passed through a pasta cutter to make fettuccine and left to dry a few minutes before cooking. Then all it needed was a toss through some fresh tomato sauce.

Rotkhol; beef roll; potato dumpling; pasta

It was a three hour masterclass that sped by with patient chefs who answered all our questions. They gave us plenty of tips on using fresh ingredients, healthy cooking methods and for the need to cut down on salt. All the dishes that were made in class were served in the lunch that followed and the table was a riot of colour and flavour. Both the gnocchi and pasta were delightful but what stole the show was the combination of beef roll, braised red cabbage and potato dumpling.

Cake; basil and orange frozen yoghurt; tiramisu

Three desserts to end the meal - a slice of cake, a scoop of ultra refreshing basil and orange frozen yoghurt and a mean tiramisu. It was an excellent pairing of strong espresso and mascarpone-y zabalione, a perfect pick-me-up.

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