Who knew hanging in a Michelin kitchen could be so much pleasure. No drudgery here. This was all fun! Tasting. Giggling. And a smidge of learning. Pied a Terre’s Kitchen Experience turned out to be the most incredible London adventure.
At 9 am sharp, I was opening my first scallop. Pretty gooey. This was seriously hands on. And a great way to discover just how precisely a professional kitchen is run. Nothing goes to waste. Everyone has their station and expertise. And it is surprisingly calm. Well-oiled machine is the cliché that springs to mind.
On my morning, I was one of four fellow explorers (the maximum is five). Strangers when we began, we were friends by the end. We all cringed when the lobster went into the pot but had no trouble enjoying him later after seeing him quickly shelled, cleaned and plated with cannoli, flamed corn and a saffron cayenne mayonnaise. We kneaded sour dough to be turned into bread the next day… it has to sit overnight.
Its shockingly scientific. As I discovered are sauces. Chefs are constantly experimenting to get the right tastes and textures out of ingredients, both conventional and bizarre. We sampled jelly made from aloe vera, and a decorating sauce held firm from a seaweed derivative instead of gelatin so it can be served to vegetarians.
Things are not prepared linearly. After the scallops, we started on the fois gras torchon. Our job was breaking the room temperature buttery liver into chunks. While they cooled in the fridge we worked on the lobster. Then back to fois gras, the icy nuggets were seasoned and rolled in muslin cloth and expertly tied. By yours truly (and new friends) closely supervised by Asimakis Chaniotis.
Relatively new to his role as head chef for Pied a Terre, Akis, as he is called by friends and me, has risen rapidly through the ranks since he took his first cooking class at 17. Originally from Greece he realized he needed the depth and diversity of London to hone his passion. He was a great teacher, endlessly patient, generous with his knowledge and clear in his explanations. He’s also pretty cute with a great twinkle in his eye and makes a mean raspberry millefeuille. Which we devoured. Before lunch.
At noon, our time in the kitchen was over and we headed to the dining room for four new dishes. Paired with wine. As I waddled into a taxi at 3 pm I was handed a bag filled with wonderful goodies including an apron, recipes and my own sour dough starter which is more like a pet than a food, it needs to be fed daily.
A bit pricy, this adventure was worth every penny.