This long weekend Cheryl and I invited some friends over for an early dinner.
I admit that I’m too lazy to entertain. Some may find that surprising given that I am a chef. Cooking shows give the impression that chefs, after slogging it up in the kitchen, are still driven by their endless passion & love of food, and end up cooking superb feasts for friends, drinking fine wines and lording it up seven nights a week. Nothing could be further from the truth. My go-to meal is a chunky peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of brown rice (done in the rice cooker) with a sprinkling of furikake and some steamed chicken.
As we do not frequently entertain at home I wanted to put the TV chef stereotype to the test. Oh you know the one; he cooks, entertains his guests, refills the drinks yet miraculously has time to sit down to eat, all the while humbly accepting the pats on the back from his friends as they oooo & aahh at his ballerina-like agility and almost demi-god like cooking skills, which he executes without breaking a sweat.
First things first – in reality, kitchens are hot, especially in Singapore so there was no way I was getting away from this without breaking a sweat. Secondly, watching the risotto, toasting the bread, welcoming guests, cooking the mussels, plating the antipasto platter, making the hummus & duck rillette while pouring drinks simultaneously is not my forte. I felt like I could have served better had I possessed the four arms of Vishnu (incidentally that was one of my Cards Against Humanity cards later on in the evening, oh the irony!)
Thankfully Cheryl was there to pick up the pieces and she hosted while I pirouetted round my tiny apartment kitchen, laughing about how easy TV chefs and their production assistants, plating consultants, menu designers etc. made it all look.
Thankfully, by the time everyone was done with the salad and appetizer, it was time for the main event – the wild mushroom and truffle risotto. After shaving the Perigord truffle into the risotto table side (cue oooo and aaahs ), I was finally free to sit down and enjoy the meal, with thoughts of dirty dishes dancing through my head.
I realised just how disconnected the TV chef persona seems from my own reality. As a chef by profession, I cook and prepare food, taste as I work, clean as I go and rarely have to focus on the entertainment aspect. It’s all about the food. I noticed that even after sitting down I was still in chef mode, jumping up every 2 minutes to quickly wash something, clean a counter top, almost as if I was tensely awaiting for the next batch of orders to be delivered to the pass.
What I did take away from the whole experience is: to do more mise en place ahead, give myself more time to sit down, and simply just enjoy the company of my friends (instead of treating the experience as table service). I knew the illusion provided by TV chefs are just plain nonsense.
Selection of Coppa ham, chorizo, Rosetta salami, double Brie, Comte, and Manchego cheese.
Quinoa, feta, olives, rocket & sun-dried tomato salad – thanks to Lindi
Clams and mussels, white wine & garlic
The main event – The shaving of the truffle
And voila – Wild mushroom risotto , shaved Perigord truffle