Yup, it sure has. You could be forgiven for thinking that I’d abandoned NotJunkFood after the college announcement, ‘cept that’s not really the case, the intention was there all along but it seems a return to education after so long has been a bit of culture shock.
Thankfully I am starting to get to grips with the workload just as more gets heaped on in the form of assignments. Still, this is what I wanted, to learn more about the craft and the science of cooking and I’m still loving it despite the workload. This course is a really good one year introduction but I know I’m only scratching the surface of what I could be learning which is why I’m already planning for what’s to follow and that’s something you can all help on but more about that later.
I’m also getting a bit excited about the run up to Christmas not because Santa is coming and he’s going to bring me a set of Global Knives (I’ve been good but I don’t think I’ve been that good ;)) but because I’m going to be starting a few weeks of work experience in an actual restaurant where I might actually get to make something for paying customers!
So anyway, I mentioned about plans for after this course. Well one choice would be to go on from here to study Culinary Arts in Cathal Brugha Street, however who knows if anyone will be able to afford to be a student after the upcoming budget. So I’ve also entered Cully & Sully’sChefFactor competition.
Why? Well quite simply because the prize is just incredible! The full 12 week cookery course in the world renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School, a place that not only turns out some of the best chefs in the world but is also the living embodiment of all that is great with Irish food.
Forgetting the value of the prize (€12K for the course + accommodation + equipment + 2 weeks to mine the brains of both Cully & Sully for all there is to know about the food industry) for a minute or two, this is a life changing opportunity and one that, should I win, I intend to wring every last ounce of value from. This will change someone’s life and I’m hoping that with your help, it will be my life that gets changed
The competition is now in full swing and the public voting has begun, so you can pop over to my entry here and show your support by clicking on the “Like” button. The competition is fierce, so please also “recommend” to your friends and family that they too support me with a vote! Thank you in advance!
Everyone’s favourite producers of chilled hot pots, soups, pies and desserts, Cully&Sully were in the Westbury Hotel in Dublin last night to meet some of the Irish Food Bloggers and to launch a fantastic new competition – Chef Factor.
The evening kicked off with demonstration from Ivan, often referred to as the “&” in Cully&Sully – he’s the main development chef for the company. Over copious free beers, Ivan cooked a delicious lamb dish with couscous, white turnip & multi-coloured chard served with Bearnaise sauce, while dispensing numerous chef tips along the way to the eager crowd. Once the dish was served up for us to taste, it was time for Elaine (the “.com” in cullyandsully.com, as I nicknamed her) to show off the promo videos that had been made for the competition.
Both Cully & Sully grew up around Irish food powerhouses (Ballymaloe & The Granary Store), so it was natural that they were gourmands from a young age. Their upbringing has strongly influenced their business, as the entire range of products is free from artificial colours & flavourings and also preservatives – or as Cully puts it, “The only things you’ll find in our products are the things you’ll find in your Granny’s kitchen”. Talking to them after the launch last night, it was clear that this philosophy runs to their core, as they were eager to discuss any dishes and restaurants the food bloggers could recommend.
Cully&Sully’s Chef Factor is about giving someone a once in a life time opportunity to pursue a culinary career or get involved in making their own good food. They are also hoping to raise some awareness for Cork Simon Community throughout the competition as they are approaching their 40th anniversary and now as much as ever, are in need of support.
The winner of Chef Factor will get to attend the 12-week cookery course in Ballymaloe worth €12,000 (session starting January 2011) along with receiving everything they need to become Ireland’s next great chef: the course, a uniform, a set of knives, accommodation while they train followed by 2 weeks with Cully&Sully to learn about the business and have some craic!
If you want to support someone who has entered Cully&Sully’s Cheffactor, you just have to ‘Like’ their entry to vote for them! Voting opens on the the 25th of October and only Votes on Cheffactor.ie count. They will also be giving away a number of Cully&Sully’s coveted hampers to voters at the final!
The 12-week course at Ballymaloe is highly respected and much sought after, and in their own words:
Our 12-week Certificate Course is aimed at anyone with a passionate interest in food. Some of our students use it as a springboard to becoming a professional chef (literally, hundreds of former students are now running their own restaurants or catering companies) – others to provide themselves with a marketable skill (for instance, cooking for private parties) – and a third group to maximise the pleasure they get from cooking at home. There’s no one age group (we have students who have just left school, others who are happily retired) and no particular level of experience (some are absolute beginners, others already accomplished).
So it’s time to get your thinking caps on and decide what dish you want to enter! Entering is easy, you simply have to upload a photo of YOU with your speciality dish. To garnish, put the words Cully&Sully somewhere in your snap. Then tell them a little bit about your dish and in 100 words or less why YOU deserve to be in the final!
No, I’m not talking about an airborne or infantry unit! It’s our one hundred and second post here on notjunkfood.net
Yes, our one hundredth post slipped quietly past on Monday, we’ve never been ones to mark the round number anniversaries, it just seems so arbitrary. Oh alright then, I missed it, but in order to mark the occasion of our one hundred and second post I want to take a few moments to look at how far we’ve come since we launched back in January of this year and that first recipe, scrambled eggs.
Since then it’s been great to see how the web-site and our presence on both Facebook and Twitter have grown and continue to grow. With over 400 individual visits per week and one thousand links to our site, 343 followers on Twitter and 125 likes on Facebook, it’s safe to say that things have grown faster than we expected. It’s also great to know that we have attracted an international audience with readers from our nearest neighbour the UK to places as far flung as the USA, India and even Australia. I’m so happy to be able to thank all our readers for helping us get this far
So to mark the occasion of our one hundred and second post, we’re having a draw with a great prize, a copy of “Easy Entertaining” by Darina Allen of the Ballymaloe Cookery School and also a Ballymaloe Cookery School apron, both pictured above.
To enter all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling us what your favourite meal is and we will pick a winner at random from all the entries after the closing date – Wednesday 30th June at 5pm GMT – so get your entries in and tell your friends, families and loved ones to do the same 😉
On Friday evening last, Elly and myself hopped on a bus and headed into Dublin city centre to catch the Taste of Dublin Festival in the Iveagh Gardens. I have to say it was a gorgeous venue which added to the tasting experience no end.
It was our first visit to Taste and we were both pretty excited, which of course meant that we were early and ended up standing around with a lot of other people queueing to enter and trying to spot any celebs passing down the VIP lane, there were none (at least that we recognised).
Bang on time the gates opened and people started to flood in past the jazz band inside the entrance and on to see what the first stand had on offer. No freebies that we saw but a couple of glasses of prosecco with added strawberry were purchased to help get us in the mood. I was a little disappointed at being asked for more cash so soon after entering the festival (hey, I’m a tight fisted Irishman after all;)) but I needn’t have worried because for the next 20 minutes we were plied with more free samples than it was possible to consume even at the slow pace we were able to move past each of the stands.
Both Elly and myself had done a bit of forward planning with a list of “must sees” some that we both wanted to see/try and some “solo” events. First on both our lists was Gino D’Acampo‘s Cookery demonstration, albeit for different reasons
I have to hand it to Gino, his showmanship and stage craft were second only to his cooking and he’s obviously done a few of these demonstration things before. With the assistance of some audience members he started into preparing a courgette pasta dish, which looked and smelled fantastic. I was a little surprised to see him using dried pasta, however the rest of the dish was prepared entirely while the spaghetti was cooking so this firmly falls into the realm of a “quick and easy” dinner.
Gino (again with audience participation) also prepared a tiramisu, but more on that tomorrow 😉
At this point Elly and I began operation “divide and conquer”. To be fair Elly wanted to do a wine tasting demonstration that I was less than enthusiastic about, so I left her to sample the wines and I toddled off for a look around some of the other stalls to pass the time until the Ballymaloe Cookery School “class” that we had booked into was due to kick off.
Elly’s wine tasting Session:
The Edward Dillon Wine Experience was one of my must-sees at the festival and I was lucky enough to roll up just as a class started. They had different sessions on throughout the weekend, and on Friday evening it was “The Modern White Wine Styles of Rosemount“. A fast talking Australian shipped over specially from the vineyard was our host for the session and he rapidly walked us through 4 wines from their diamond label, starting with a peppery little pinot grigio. This was definitely an easy-drinking summer wine and he went on to explain that they had designed the wine to be so easy and light that you’d finish a bottle in one session!
Moving on through the wines we then tasted a Semillion Sauvignon, which was not to my liking as it was just too acidic for my palate. I started sipping ahead at this point and correctly guessed that the next two on offer were Chardonnays, easy to tell from their buttery texture. Wine 4 seemed to be a lot richer and more complex when wine 3, and this was confirmed when we were told that wine 4 was their Show Reserve Hunter Valley Chardonnay, which is oak-aged. Overall it was a fun little tasting session and really showed off the different characteristics of their white wines.
The Ballymaloe cookery class was an excellent introductory lesson in food preparation, that I thoroughly enjoyed. It began with a full demonstration of how to prepare “Portabella Mushrooms with Basil Pesto and Balsamic Vinegar” and we were then divided into groups, each group member was given their own task to perform and then all were brought together to “plate up”. All good fun and great to get another perspective on pesto, which seems to be very “of the moment” considering every food event I’ve been to this year has had at least one demo of someone making pesto or a pesto variation.
Once the meals were plated, we were directed to nearby tables and chairs to eat. I have to admit I had “sampled” most of the ingredients while in the class and was a little dubious as to how it was all going to come together, but it did and was absolutely delicious. I now have a first hand understanding of why Ballymaloe has the reputation it has.
After this we wandered through the various stalls tasting the samples and purchased a number of the sample signature dishes. The stand outs for me were the “Panang Gai” from Diep le Shaker, ely‘s “Organic Burren Beef Burger” and Eatery 120‘s “Chocolate Soup with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream”
The last of these three stood out for all the wrong reasons. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this dish but the positively ordinary tasting chocolate sauce with a melon ball sized scoop of bland vanilla ice cream left me regretting the purchase and with a very much less than favourable impression of Eatery 120. Maybe I just picked the wrong dish but if you’re going to pitch yourself as a fine dining experience then you should make sure that all your dishes are spectacular in each of their areas and this simply was not.
Now that said, both Diep le Shaker and ely are on my list of must visits for exactly the opposite reason. Stunning Taste sensations both of them.
I was lucky with my restaurant taster picks at the festival, as none of them let me down, except on pricing! After paying €20 in, if you taste 4 tapas-sized portions and drink 2 glasses of wine you’re lucky to get away for an additional €35. Leaving that aside, my first taste was the delicious Steak Frite with Bearnaise Sauce from The Saddle Room. I’d seen a review earlier in the day which had whetted my appetite for this, and it was yummy.
Balzac were up next, serving a tasty Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Caramel with Raisins & Pedro Ximenez. This was served with little bread toasts to spread the dish on. I quickly ran out of bread toasts, but the restaurant won me over when they happily provided me with some more for no extra charge. My final taste of the day was the one I had really been waiting for; Roasted Scallop, Confit Duck, Summer Squash Puree & Foie Gras Lollipops from Salon des Saveurs. From the first bite I was hooked, the scallop was cooked to perfection, the duck confit was pure melt-in-your-mouth goodness and foie gras lollipop studded with crushed nuts added a wonderful creamy note. You won’t believe it though, but the simple summer squash puree served with this dish was the real scene-stealer! Overall, Salon des Saveurs was the winner for me, and hopefully I’ll get a full dinner there before long!
I’d like to be able to sum up my experience at Taste in an overwhelmingly positive way, but there are two things that really impacted negatively on the experience for me. The crowd and the cost.
To explain, the crowd was ridiculous. In places you couldn’t move without bumping into people. No big deal at a trade fair but at a food fair where people had plates of food in their hands – not so good! It seemed to be partly down to the layout, a lot of the vendor stalls were crammed into one small area while larger open spaces went un-utilised. Either that or the tickets had simply been over sold. Whatever the reason I’m not sure how you can be expected to enjoy food while you’re being jostled about, even a plastic fork hurts when it gets rammed into the roof of your mouth by accident.
As for the cost I’m inclined to agree with Consumed Foodie because apart from the cost of the ticket Elly and myself spent about €100 between us on food and wine. Now, if we went out for a meal and spent that much, I’d be confident that I wouldn’t be thinking of eating again as I left the premises.
Then of course the festival is about more than the eating and considering the price of admission, there was plenty available by way of demonstrations and information to make it worthwhile, just not as a substitute for an evening meal. Will I be going again?
Well, of course, except next time I’ll plan to have a meal either before or after the event 😉