When you think of a brand as large and international as Marriott, it is difficult to imagine the separate personalities, backgrounds and inspiration for each of the chefs working in these kitchens around the world. However this week, this global brand became very local, with chefs from the Asia Pacific region coming together for a Culinary and Beverage Workshop in our very own Yarra Valley, where I was one of the lucky ones given the rare chance to see what makes some of these chefs tick and what inspires them in their kitchens.
At the stunning grounds of De Bortoli Winery in Dixons Creek, after a comfortable and luxurious night spent at the Westin Melbourne the previous evening, bloggers and chefs combined forces to showcase a range of dishes inspired by our childhoods. As if this wasn’t a lovely enough food scenario already, what added to the experience was the use of local produce from the Yarra Valley and Victoria, and the opportunity to go and gather ingredients from the producers themselves.
From seafood to edible flowers to homemade chutneys and sauces, trying and testing the ingredients to be added to our own dishes was like being on our own episode of Masterchef. Producers such as Gippsland Producers, Cherryhill Orchards, Hargreaves Hill, Hardings, Yarra Valley Chocolate Co, Renaissance Herbs and others were ready to share their produce with us and the lucky diners, giving us the opportunity to incorporate it into our nostalgic dishes (and do lots of taste testing too!)
For me, childhood memories and food are very closely linked.
Coming from a family that loves food, and would often whip up extravagant buffets of home cooked food for birthdays and special events, it is a running joke in our family that if you don’t love eating, you aren’t really one of us. My passion for cooking and gourmet food started as a pre-teen, when I grew tired of my Mum’s cooking (my Dad was a meat and three veg kinda guy) and she told me if I wanted fancy food, I had to cook it myself. The following week I was cooking a dinner party for my extended family, making Swiss Mushroom and Chicken Crepes, and blowing everyone away with my early cooking talents (and developing food snobbery!)
One of the most iconic childhood food memories though, has to be a classic Pork Roast. Was there anything better than that first piece of salty, crispy crackling, especially before we knew how bad it was for us? I remember helping Mum peel the Granny Smith apples for a homemade apple sauce, and being so shocked to find other families used apple sauce out of a jar because making homemade apple sauce was so much more fun. This was the memory I bought along with me to work with the Marriott chefs on recreating, and I was so impressed with the way the memory was interpreted. Under the careful watch of Marriott Melbourne chef Karan Negi and his team, my humble pork roast was transformed into Chimichurri Pork Cutlets served on a bed of citrus grilled Spring Vegetables.
The use of the barbecue to cook this dish (and many of the dishes from other bloggers childhood memories that day) only increased the level of nostalgia created by this dish, because really, what more quintessential Australian cooking style is there than the barbie? To see these world reknowned Marriott chefs creating our gourmet, well thought out dishes heroing local produce come to life amongst the beautiful backdrop of the De Bortoli Estate on the simple barbecue was really something. A group of lucky Marriott guests were the diners on the day, and had one of the most incredible buffets I have ever seen to work their way through, and vote on which barbecue station they enjoyed the most. From steak, to seafood, to pork, to chicken (go team pork!), the options were endless and it would have been almost impossible to try every dish without having to roll on home.
Working side by side with some of the Marriot Groups most celebrated Asia Pacific chefs in the Yarra Valley, our own backyard, was next level food inspiration and proof my food dream has come a long way since those crepes at my family dinner party at 12 years old. Thank you to Marriott Hotel Group for such a wonderful opportunity.
Have a delicious day,