Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Chef Dan's Masterclass

After calling Chef Dan Calvert’s roast chicken the best in town, I have always wanted to know more how the dish was done at his restaurant Belon. And I got my chance of learning when he’s hosting the “masterclass” as part of the Gaggenau Culinary Artisan program sponsored by the home appliance maker Gaggenau and its local distributor Kitchen Infinity.

I have long heard of the amazing kitchen studio/showroom space by Kitchen Infinity, showcasing the appliance and design of all brands they represented, but it’s still bigger (and more impressive) than I imagined, with several sections of show kitchens and living areas. It’s like a perfect house that I can only dream about with all the appliances I need, extravagant interior design with a good view to show forth outside the window at a commercial building in Island South/Wong Chuk Hang. At the end of their showroom was a functional kitchen studio completed with several “stations” where the class was held.

In the 3-hour long class held on a weekday afternoon, Chef Dan walked us through a few dishes he has prepared first as demo than each of us were given time to do part of the steps so we all can try to cook a little bit and make use of some of the appliances they have at the studio (that’s the whole purpose, isn’t it?) We began with the éclair dessert, similar to the one Chef Dan serves at Belon. The major step of making the éclair was the preparation of Choux Pastry, and Dan shared with us the steps and techniques on how to make the perfect batch, followed by the making of Amaretto Cream which is the filling of the dessert, by combining almond paste with crème patisserie, another basic components of French dessert. With both already prepared for us by Belon’s culinary team, all we needed to do was the pipe the choux pastry into long shape, popped them into oven, and completed the assembly later on – piping the amaretto cream into the baked éclair, topped with apricots (poached compote cooked sous vide and raw one thinly sliced) and a brush of apricot jam glaze.

With our éclair safely kept in the oven, Dan moved on to show us a few more dishes. I found out Ricotta Gnocchi was one of the dishes perfect for entertaining at home, since it’s fairly straight forward to make and can be prepared ahead of time, and it’s good that Dan showed us how his version was done, by mixing the basic ingredients (ricotta, parmesan, flour and cream) to form the dough, than piped into ball-shaped gnocchi and covered in semolina flour overnight to form the crust outside. We each got our opportunity to try the finished version with the truffle and pea sauce with chicken broth reduction (the one to die for!) and also have some raw gnocchis to bring home with.

Of course it’s always the chicken I was most curious about and one I took much attention to learn, wanting to snitch some secrets from the chef. We began with the raw whole chicken  – the same type Dan uses at his restaurant from the same local farm – which has been cleaned (some bones and innards removed) and brined the night before. He then showed us the techniques of filling the chicken with spinach and mushroom stuffing underneath the skin, tied it up and roasted in the oven. We were each given one whole bird to do the same as he showed us and I then realized it’s much easier said than done, but with a lot of help from Dan and his sous chef, I think all of us managed to have our own decent version of roast chicken to take home with.

There are many chefs who might be good at cooking but bad at teaching, or just unwilling to share, and there are cooking classes that are more focused on just a demo or steps that were wishy-washy and lacked substance or knowledge takeaways, but I felt Dan did a great job showing and sharing with us how the dishes were prepared, and let us get our hands dirty a little bit to have some exercises on our own. I definitely learned something that I could apply at my own home kitchen – when I have time I will try to do my own whole roast chicken, a la Belon style, to see if I can at least make something close on those days I was too busy to go to his restaurant.

Thanks Kitchen Infinity for the invitation and Chef Dan Calvert plus the Belon team for the effort!

When? June 28 2018
Where? Kitchen Infinity Island South Galleria, 19/F, One Island South, 2 Heung Yip Road, Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong
Kitchen Infinity: www.kih.com.hk
Gaggenau Culinary Artisan Program: www.kih.com.hk/gaggenau-culinary-artisans-2018-2-2/
Belon: belonsoho.com

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