The latest Culinary Classroom session was kindly hosted by our fresh produce supplier, Fresh Direct, at their wonderful facility in Bicester. The chefs travelled from far and wide and were treated to a fantastic day hosted by Head of Food Development, Duncan Parsonage, and Senior National Account Manager, Gemma Mortimer.To kick things off, Gemma gave the chefs an overview of Fresh Direct, their sourcing model and crop reports. This was then followed up by an interesting talk on the science of quality control, where they found out all about brix tests (a scientific method to determine how sweet produce is) and the processes behind their QC.
The chefs were then split into two groups; one going on a tour of the facility and the other having a session with Duncan. The facility was very impressive, with a clear emphasis on quality produce. Duncan’s session revolved around lesser-known and high quality produce; with an emphasis on how the products could be used within our business. At this point, it was time for some lunch, with a delicious rustic meal of pasta, slaw and home-baked bread.
After lunch, Duncan expanded on his previous session by sharing some dishes and tips on how they could be implemented alongside our current offer. The crumbed exotic mushrooms went down a storm, as did a delicious risotto and a North African-style hummus.With the chefs suitably informed and inspired, it was on to the afternoon practical session and a bit of competition (not that chefs are a competitive bunch..). Two teams were formed, given a range of produce and asked to create a vegetarian dish. It was a race against the clock, as they had only 20 minutes to prepare, cook and clean down. The judging team of Chris, Rhys, Matt and Duncan then had the tricky task of deciding on the winning dish.The first team served up with a cauliflower and parmesan fritter served on a carpaccio of courgette and beetroot, with the second cooking up Mediterranean cauliflower, asparagus and parmesan crisp. The judging team agreed that the fritter was the winning dish, but both teams were commended on the presentation and execution of their dishes.All that was left was to say goodbye and hop on the train, plane or in the car for the journey home. It really was an excellent day, full of inspiration and its always great for the chefs to get together from all corners of the country and talk shop. We can’t wait for the next session!