No one has ever said, “this is better than sex” during a savoury dish. And hearing, “I’m having an orgasm in my mouth,” during a meat dish is far less common than, “I’m so full my buttons are going to pop!”.
This is because desserts have a sexual chemical while savoury dishes have MSG. Desserts are sexy, seductive, elegant, leave an everlasting impression and are sold at a reasonable price. On the other hand, savoury dishes are often over-priced, unnecessarily over-worked and despite being pink, aren’t even pretty.
“Life is uncertain, eat dessert first”. I cherish this quote by Ernestine Ulmer – such words of wisdom and truth. How many times have we gone out for dinner and just asked for the dessert menu to see what courses we are going skip to leave enough room to fit in the desserts we want to try? Many times I’ve headed out to a restaurant just for dessert, and in the kitchen the head chef is scrunching up his face at the thought of solely providing sweets.
Is this why we are now forgetting the savoury courses and getting straight into desserts? This could give some real insight into why dessert degustation menus are popping up in well-respected establishments throughout Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.
Dessert degustation is a trend that has been going around the world for a while now. New York’s WD50 is home to one of my favourite restaurants that offer dessert degustation and used to be home to one of my favourite pastry chefs Alex Stupak, who has since moved on. Head over to Singapore and you’ll also find a desert degustation menu at the 2am dessert bar under the direction of the incredible Janice Wong. And here in Australia, we’ve be able to enjoy dessert degustation at The Bentley in Sydney for some time now.
But more and more, Australian pastry chefs are adopting the trend, and we’re seeing it done often and well. In fact Darren Purchase from Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio is doing it on a monthly basis, while Shaun Quade from the Duchess of Spotswood and Pierre Roelofs – who was my sous chef at the Melbourne Sofitel where I was an apprentice – are doing it weekly.
Not so long ago LuxBite came to a Sydney Pastry Club meeting I held and asked me if I would be interested in doing a dessert degustation in their Melbourne premises. The idea was I would team up with LuxBite co-owner Bernard Chu and work on an Asian inspired-menu that would be fun, cheeky and technical. The whole point of the exercise was to share knowledge and to give the customers a new degree of product. Most importantly, we wanted no stress and lots of fun. Without being too expensive, the LuxBite team also wanted to use the event to introduce their bottled caramel.
I said yes straight away, the only problem was the time. The busy season had kicked in at work and we were flat out. Nonetheless, we managed to get in on November 22. One of my staff, Felicity, jumped at the opportunity to come along. Despite me telling her I couldn’t pay for her she insisted, and turned up in a pressed uniform, polished shoes and was very well-behaved. I should take her with me more often.
Yen, one of LuxBite’s co-owners and Bernard’s partner, use to be one of my old staff members at a previous employment, which we refuse to speak of… Yen would brag non-stop, “my boyfriend works with Katrina at Pier”. And that’s how I got to know and love the highly-creative LuxBite team.
So once Yen gave me the go ahead, LuxBite and myself mentioned the event on Twitter and Facebook and it sold out within less than 24-hours! The phones went crazy for weeks with people trying to get seats. Those who rang me personally were also out of luck, as I only had two spare tickets; one went to my friend Kirsten Tibballs and the other went to my brother. The enthusiasm of all the guests, and even those who couldn’t get tickets, was such a great feeling. It reassures me I’m on the right track and I definitely want to team up with the LuxBite team again soon.
The best thing about working with Bernard and Yen was the constant reminder to have fun, to not be too serious, and to remember this is not just a job but a hobby, and an opportunity to enjoy our craft. We can still have fun while creating perfection, with a little bit of humour!
So what did we make? Here’s the dessert degustation menu:
Amuse: Drunken pandan panda (Anna Polyviou)
I started off with my passionfruit posset, mango and champagne jelly, mango popping pearls, pina colada foam, and the addictive pandan macaron that LuxBite do so well. The mango popping peals were a hit and I highly suggest you all get in contact with Nick on 0414 505 422 to get them at an amazing price.
2nd Course: Asian pink bits (Anna Polyviou)
Next course was a vanilla tapioca, meringue tube, hubba bubba gel, strawberry and Asian lemonade foam, and strawberry lollipops. I then walked out and gave a talk about what I created and the different ingredients used.
3rd Course: You think you know this Asian drink? (LuxBite)
The chocolate, malt, coffee and condensed milk dessert was wicked. Bernard actually dehydrated chocolate mousse and turned it into Milo, which Felicity and I stole and drank!
Palette cleanser: ‘Sushi’ (LuxBite)
This course had people freaking out! This ‘sushi’ looked like it included rice, salmon roe, wasabi mayo and soy, but it wasn’t savoury at all. The wasabi was pandan paste, the plastic fish had palm sugar caramel on it and the sushi had the popping pearls Nick sent up, along with coconut rice and a fruit puree wrap. It was so cool and we all absolutely loved it.
4th Course: Sweet Asian garden inspired by Yayoi Kusama (LuxBite)
This is where Bernard got all arty on me. Bernard is wacky, and I just love how he designs his menus to make them fun and interesting and to give them a totally different dimension. I have no idea how a tiny kitchen can produce such amazing work – not just for a degustation menu, but for everything they create.
5th Course: Rocking and Popping Karaoke Candy (Anna Polyviou)
The final dessert was peanut, raspberry and black sesame-seed ice-cream I used pop rocks as the salt and coco nibs in a pepper mill as the pepper. The evening was a huge success; the only problem we encountered was freezing the ice-cream, which once spread out on a tray, chilled just in time. There are a few people and brands who made the event so memorable. Gary Willis from F.Mayer Imports and San Pellegrino supported me as usual, and I thank them for their ongoing help. I’d also like to thank Wondersnacks, which had yummy treats out on arrival. Check Wondersnacks out online at
www.thewondersnackco.com.au, in particularly their amazing bacon pop-corn, which I’m hoping I might get a few samples of!
‘Desserts’ may spell ‘stressed’ backwards, but they are really meant to mean fun. Let’s share the love and the knowledge. I thank Bernard and Yen for re-introducing me to my hobby, rather than just my job, and to my amazing staff member Felicity who just wanted to pack up her things and come along for an adventure. We could all learn from the adventurous mentality of these people.