Archive for January, 2011

Long Time No See

It has been some time since I have blogged; restaurants around this time of year can be pretty crazy! I have spent the last two weeks at a new restaurant in Melbourne, Philippe Mouchel’s PM24. Philippe has held a reputation for having some of the best classic French food in Melbourne. French food is one of my favourite cuisines, and so I was pretty eager to get started.

One of the first things I noticed about the way Philippe (and head chef Sascha) ran a kitchen was how willing they were to give everyone in the kitchen a fair share of responsibility. For example, making terrines is something that a Sous Chef or other experienced chef would make. Here some of the younger chefs were given the task.

Pork and chicken liver terrine, pickled vegetables, cornichons, onion jam on toast.

Another example was letting me work on the sauce section on my second week of working in the restaurant. Sauce section involves making stocks, sauces, cooking meat, and plating up main dishes, and is usually done by the more experienced chefs.

I hadn’t made a terrine like the one above, and so I eagerly asked if I could do the first job required; clean the chicken livers. I think the chef thought I was a little insane, as there was 15kg of livers to be cleaned! I must admit my enthusiasm for the task waned as I battled my way through the enormous pile of livers. At least I’ll be pretty quick if I ever need to make chicken liver parfait or a terrine again!

The centrepiece of the restaurant is certainly the rotisserie. Chicken, duck, pork and rack of lamb are all on the menu.

Rotisserie pork, fennel, pork jus.

I doubt PM24 will ever receive a complaint in regards to portion sizes. The pork shown above is about the size of my head, and anyone who orders the chicken gets half a chicken with rotisserie vegetables. It’s any wonder people get to dessert, but it would be pretty hard to resist when you see other tables getting desserts like this.

Paris brest (choux pastry, hazelnut praline creme patisserie, sauce caramel, caramel hazelnuts, praline ice-cream).

The desserts are traditional French. Classic French desserts are commonplace among many restaurants, and to stand out it means doing the little things right. Take for example the creme brulee. PM24 serves it in a shallow dish with a big surface area (which means more caramel on top) and the pastry chef sprays the top with alcohol, which allows the front of house member to set the dessert on fire at the table. I would order a flaming dessert every time!

One of the quintessential parts of any French kitchen is the stocks and sauces. To allow for big volumes of sauce to be made, a brat pan is used. It works basically like a massive square saucepan, and is stirred with a metal implement which I’m sure was once used as an oar in a canoe.

Making the lamb jus.

Lessons learned at PM24:

  • When tightening a wingnut, righty=tighty, lefty=loosey. This might seem silly, but I wish I’d known it before I broke the wingnut on the thermoregulator. It took me a buttload of phone calls to track someone down who sold replacement parts in Melbourne.
  • Sauce section is fun, difficult, and bloody hot when you are standing in front of a rotisserie/ovens/stove for a long time.
  • PM24 has shown me a different way of looking a rotisserie. Not a device often used in top restaurants, but is used expertly to create really beautiful food.
  • Making 900 suckling pig croquettes is a cruel thing to do, as they are one of the tastiest morsels of food I can imagine. I’m still kicking myself I didn’t steal a hundred or two and sell them on the black market. They would have been snapped up like hotcakes. Or hot croquettes.