Brianne Nash, head chef at Saucy restaurant in Mississauga, was our 2012 Discovered Culinary Competition winner! She won the contest featuring up-and-coming culinary stars competing against the clock, at the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association show in Toronto. Chef Nash's prize was an all-expenses-paid trip to spend a week cooking at Casa Gerardo, a Michelin-star restaurant in northern Spain.
My last day. Wow. Has it really come and gone that fast?
As the morning fills itself with sardine guts, scales and pin bones I can't help but smile a little bit. I am happy the challenge of language barriers and hand signals is over. At the same time, I made it. I am happy and proud of myself, no matter what anyone thinks of me in the kitchen, for me, I did it.
It's hard to believe in March I stood on the stage at the CRFA food show holding this trophy which was a ticket straight to Spain! For me, the win was the victory, winning my first competition and the second part was an experience in Spain. I couldn't have imagined then what I have experienced now.
This kitchen has showed me how a little elbow grease goes a long way. It glistens of stainless steel and expensive tools which everyone treats with the most respect. A vacuum sealer, thermo blender, ice cream machine, and everything else in between! I didn't come from a kitchen with the best of the best tools, I'd say I was more of a Nona! Using my bare hands to try and accomplish what these renowned chefs can do with their tools.
I am going home with the Spanish tortilla in my back pocket, some badass croquettes, a feel of the famous faba dish and a whole lot of elbow grease to bring to my next challenge.
Marcos and his family have a special bond with food. It's a passion, they are there everyday making sure the restaurant is exactly as they want, even grandmother (the former chef) comes in and checks things out. I want the same passion, not someone who just owns a restaurant and is never there. I want my own Casa Gerardo.
I hope for all those who followed my blogs you have enjoyed reading about each physical, emotion and mental challenge I have experienced. I hope one day, that is my kitchen people want to come work in.
Cheers to everyone who read along! Thank you for reading! Until the next journey. XO
It's nice that things become familiar after so much watching and little talking. I know where to get myself started in the morning. I also know who needs what and how to hand gesture my way through tasks.
Marcos is off to London tomorrow to do some work for his restaurant. Excitement fills his voice. I can only imagine the feel of owning another successful restaurant! I will definitely make a visit there upon my next visit to London.
I got some great insight today for a lot of dishes which Xune prepares. His English is the best and easier to understand and he is in charge of their famous dish! Also getting to sample some delicious manchego cheese, my personal favourite cheese! So glad it is available in Canada. I can picture myself beach side in Barcelona eating this cheese. Great memories!
Off to a soccer match tonight and can't wait to feel the vibe through the stadium. It's not just a sport, it's a love, passion and adrenaline rush!
Can't believe tomorrow is my last day in Asturias however looking forward to the heat and sun of central Madrid :)
Another awesome day in the kitchen! Hard to believe my journey at Casa Gerardo is coming to an end.
It's been such an amazing experience, however think I will be happy to be back in an English kitchen upon my return!
I asked to help clean the fridge and as I approached it I was looked at like a crazy woman. Oh the deep fryer!! That's not a fridge! Haha!
We had a tennis team request the restaurant for dinner today so it was a nice double shift today :) A special menu for them though which was great as I got to see some new foods come through the door! One being Canadian prawns! A little bit of home in the north of Spain :)
I also got to try some amazing cheeses which were produced in Asturias today, they are very well known for the produce from cattle here, so the cheese is delicious as you can imagine!
I have managed to sneak in a weekend in Madrid for myself this weekend as I would love to see, breath and dine in all the culture I can through the whole of Spain. It's amazing to have seen the Mediterranean coast in 2009 and now the Atlantic and central this year, I feel like I have truly stomped through a good chunk of Spain!
My room mate and I have also been taking great care of each other, each night when we get home, one of us will cook dinner. Last night was garlic prawns and pesto spaghetti!
Tomorrow night I will also get to go to a soccer game in Asturias, I think that had to be on the bucket list while over here :)
Hard to believe how fast this week has gone, it's been a blur of words I don't understand, new food, new people and a mass amount of energy to get through it all.
September is a slower month for the restaurant which is nice for me as I have a chance to see things in a slower motion.
I am absolutely exhausted from this week, but good tired. This experience continues to test me everyday whether it be mentally, emotionally or physically. I can't imagine what the busy months are like at Casa Gerardo…insane I assume.
Looking extremely forward to my day off tomorrow, hoping for sand, sun and fun in the city. Not to mention some tapas!!
Today I had a chance to ask about a lot about the recipes, everything is measured to the exact weight to ensure consistency. I love the simplicity but elegance of every dish. Like a simple shucked oyster which is served with its juices along with garlic oil and cider vinegar into a warm plate topped with pork belly pieces.
Each day brings something new I get my eyes on and maybe a Spanish word or two ;) I am teaching English and learning Spanish VERY slowly. I was always a hands on girl, not so much languages and mathematics, but these are all things to overcome and build a stronger me.
Today was another great day in the kitchen, I am in absolute awe of the regiment in Casa Gerardo. It is amazing to watch chef Marcos work, always ideas and experiments running through his mind, even if it's all in Spanish, I can see the passion flowing through his expression. A lot of excitement for his new project in London, England. He is consistently going back and forth between Spain and London at the moment working on new ideas and business plans.
I started my day much like yesterday as those things are becoming familiar to me. Preparing the meats for the faba dish and lots of vacuum sealing, something which I am not used to working with. There is an immense amount of cleaning daily here, hence why the kitchen shines beautifully!
I very much enjoy that the whole staff sits down for a meal before starting lunch service. Though I may not understand a lot of what is said over lunch, it's nice to watch everyone enjoy together like a second family.
I am slowly learning some secrets behind the masterpieces, like why the faba dish is so creamy and delicious with a nice hunk of butter making its way in the preparation. I also really enjoy the smell of burning sugar that fills the air during service of the brulee rice pudding and soaked bread dessert, must find the proper Spanish name for this dish!
Many sorbets are produced in the kitchen, some flavours being cherry, lemon, chocolate and passionfruit. One particular dessert is dredged in Bailey's, right up my alley, topped with chocolate ice cream.
I am also very excited for my day off on Monday, filled with friends, beach, food and drink! Not to mention a family who has helped me out very much and would like to cook me a Spanish paella! Mmmm! Everything is enjoyable, it's nice to be free of my Canadian mind and be caught up with an oblivious mind to beautiful culture :) Not to mention my favourite cervazas, Estrella, at my finger tips!
Cheers to my first Spanish weekend since 2009! Ciao!
Today surprisingly didn't start as every other morning, no chopping fish heads as the sun rises! I helped prepare the meats for the faba dish, also had a chance to try a faba croquette which was absolutely delicious! It is the meat of the beans with chorizo perfect tapas!
I also had a chance to watch in on a braised chicken dish and to my surprise to thicken the sauce for this dish the onions and peppers are forced through a fine mesh strainer. Really love the flavour of this dish! Once cooled I vacuum packed all the chicken as for quick service it is warmed in boiling water.
Last night I had a chance to cook for my room mate Thomas, we enjoyed some Moscato wine and a basil and cheese pasta with Brie cheese toasts! I was happy to get my hands on some of my favourite cheese at the grocery store! Also amazing by the selection of cured meats available at the grocery store, one whole section dedicated to it!
The days are long on Friday and Saturday, we work 9am-5pm then back from 9pm-11:30pm, the nights being much slower then the siesta time! Tomorrow I hope I am able to jump in even more, it's very hard only having two weeks in a non English speaking kitchen, I am learning a lot with just my eyes, a whole new experience.
I feel extremely prepared to enter a new kitchen when I return and to continue my culinary journey through kitchens anywhere across the world. There are ups and downs putting yourself out there in a whole new culture and environment. If your adventure doesn't test your deepest emotion it's not a real adventure but just a vacation.
Here's to another day!
It seems like everyday will start the same with fish heads, pin bones and guts in the freezing cold working beside the fish cookery chef. He is a master at it. I've seen such a variety of fish and seafood in the freezer beside him :)
Today I tried to help where I could with whatever plates needed, food to the line and the famous faba dish.
I'm still not sure if they will give me all the secrets to the dish. But I did see the famous saffron go in though. ;)
Today Casa Gerardo featured a special menu for the restaurant they plan to open in London. This menu I was a little more familiar with. I think Marcos Moran will do very well in London. I had the chance to taste a sauce for braised chicken and it was absolutely delicious! I could eat a huge plate of that decadent chicken!
I am very interested in a dessert dish where bread is soaked in heavy cream, vanilla, sugar and milk and left for a day to set, they then brûlée it and top it with vanilla ice cream, toffee orange sauce and fresh orange zest! Mmm! I also like the looks of the brûlée of rice pudding! Why did I never do this before? My mom loves rice pudding and I plan to make this for her!
Looking forward to where another night in Gijon will take me. Till the next!
Felt recharged today with a good night sleep and ready to learn. Started my day very similar to yesterday. I’m back in the freezer gutting fish, snipping their heads off, and removing pin bones! After that I began cooking clams, plating the meat portion of the faba dish and lots of other dishes!
I am slowly picking up Spanish words while I can't help but regret dropping languages in high school. Although, it is nice to be oblivious and just learn with my eyes. I am watching every move and hoping to be able to jump in where I can!
It is amazing to watch everyone work and love what they do. There is a true love and passion for food in this kitchen which can be hard to find in the hustle bustle of everyday North American life. However, McDonalds and Burger King have yet to find themselves in this little town.
I am really enjoying the multicultural influence that the restaurant brings! People from all over the world are here to absorb the culture of Spain.
My room mate is from Hong Kong and we have more similarities than I expected. We plan to cook an Italian feast for dinner one night this week - ha! I’m looking forward to another day at Casa Gerardo tomorrow.
The evenings after work manage to fill themselseves with Spanish food, beer and new found friends, even if we speak through google translate! Cheers to another day!
After a night with Spanish cider, tapas and a full day of travel behind me I was ready to start my culinary journey at work - and that I did! I started my day chopping fish heads and gutting in the freezer. I think being Canadian they thought it would be good idea to throw me in the cold! Ha!
Casa Gerardo was everything I had imagined, refined, modern, traditional, Spanish food. I spent most of my day in the background observing and trying to get a hold of what was what. I was pleased to sit down with the staff for lunch before going into service - a delicious lentil and potato soup with chorizo and blood sausage. I was also lucky enough to sample the traditional Spanish dish of ‘faba’ and even some Asturias cheeses.
I am extremely tired from the last few days, but extremely excited to see what I will get my hands on next.
It’s nice to have a cute old Spanish flat in the heart of the city to settle down in at night. Not to mention a well deserved Estrella Cerveza which reminds me of my first trip to Spain and where my infatuation began with this amazing country….
At the Discovered Culinary Competition, the ingredients the chefs were required to use in each dish were revealed only when they opened the mystery box on the cooking stage. With the clock ticking, they had only a few seconds to come up with a recipe that would "wow" the judges.
Here's what Chef Nash served up:
Appetizer round ingredients: Blood orange, Camembert, prosciutto and white wine.
Nash wrapped the prosciutto around asparagus and stuffed it with the Camembert cheese, then served it with a blood orange and white wine butter sauce.
Entrée round ingredients: Cilantro, flat iron steak, fresh corn and instant coffee.
Nash rubbed instant coffee and grainy mustard into the flat iron steak and created a boiled corn salsa with cilantro, red onion, green pepper, vinegar, salt, pepper and fresh garlic. To go alongside, she made a hash with caramelized onions, potatoes and prosciutto, and added poached asparagus with butter, salt and pepper.
Dessert round ingredients: Buttermilk, dried apricots, ground clove and mint.
Chef Nash pureed buttermilk with boiled apricots, strawberries, honey and a pinch of the ground cloves. She marinated strawberries, blueberries and sliced dried apricots with honey and ground cloves, and served the whole dessert with a whipped mint and honey cream.
Other finalists and judges Other competitors in the final round were Dan Craig, chef at Ebo at the Delta in Burnaby, BC; William Serre, cook at Acadia Restaurant in Toronto; and Alejandro Winzer, chef at Ristorante Verdicchio in Sudbury.