La vie en boeuf

La vie en boeuf

The complexity of French cuisine proves a tough challenge for some


Chef Bjoern Alexander explained the "basics" of French cooking - which proved not so basic after all.
Chef Bjoern Alexander explained the "basics" of French cooking - which proved not so basic after all.
Photos: Thomas Yau/SCMP
The fifth round of Towngas Young Master Chef took place on Wednesday. The head chef of European restaurant Whisk, Bjoern Alexander, imparted the wisdom of French cooking to our contestants.

Bjoern challenged them to make Wagyu Striploin with Violette Mustard Cream, Black Garlic and Beetroot. While the steak appeared to be the main event, this was only a cover-up. The real challenge was that contestants had to use vegetarian gelatin to create the perfect beetroot jelly.

Two individuals or teams would be eliminated. The rest would proceed to Round Six, one round away from the semi-finals. Let's check out how Round Five went ...

Le French challenge

French cuisine is an unexplored territory for many contestants. It was the first time Enoch Chan Sze-him had even tasted French food. "The sauces are unfamiliar, so are the ingredients," he said.

Enoch reckoned French cuisine was really hard to manage because even a minor mistake could be fatal; he failed to gelatinise the side dish, beetroot jelly, because he didn't add enough vegetarian gelatin to his bowl of beetroot juice.

A few contestants, including Yuen Ka-hei and Chan Ying-yu, also failed in that task. Some of them tried to salvage the situation by cooling their beetroot mixture in the fridge, yet none of their efforts paid off.

Chef Bjoern explained that the gelatin only worked best from 80 to 90 degrees celsius; the contestants needed to heat up the gelatin-added beatroot juice to an optimum temperature before it cooled down.

Time is money

Unlike the past four rounds, this time contestants had only 50 minutes to cook their dish to perfection. The clock ticked down quickly as the contestants had to handle eight types of sauces, and pan-fry their striploin steak twice.

Isabel Chan Hiu-ching, the first to finish, plated up her dish in 45 minutes, despite problems caused by her electronic scales at the start of the competition. "The key to success is to think before you act," Isabel said. "Always write down the procedures clearly and follow them step by step."

However, not all contestants were as calm as Isabel. Yuen Ka-hei almost failed to beat the buzzer. "The time was really short," she said, "especially when I had trouble making the beetroot jelly."

Tutor: Chef Bjoern Alexander

Kitchen experience: 18 years, current head chef at European restaurant Whisk, has worked in the US, Spain and Dubai to learn different food cultures

Speciality: Seafood, mainly in French style, plus other European influences

Comments: Chef Bjoern was impressed to see the creativity displayed in each dish. The pressure point, he said, was the use of vegetarian gelatin: if the contestants added too much, the jelly would be rigid; but if there wasn't enough, the jelly wouldn't solidify. He urged contestants to pay more attention to hygiene, and joked that many forgot to add pepper.

Advice: Stay true to yourself, be creative and be natural. Make mistakes and learn from them. Cook for your family. Read more cook books. Sketch your dish on a paper before cooking.

Contestants' farewell

Despite the hard work and creativity shown in their delicacies, one talented chef and a well-oiled team had to say goodbye:

Name: Enoch Chan Tze-him
Age: 17
Speciality: Desserts, especially cookies and cakes
Difficulties: First time cooking and tasting French cuisine, unfamiliar with ingredients and sauces
Lessons learned: Cooking techniques, time management, and the importance of being flexible and well-prepared.
Message to contestants: "Creativity is the key to success. Good luck!"

Name: Katrina Leung Yui-nam and Mimi Chan Ming-ip
Age: 16 and 15 (respectively)
Speciality: Pasta, desserts
Difficulties: Overwhelmed with steps and procedures, hard to keep working station clean and tidy
Lessons learned: Time management, keeping calm during whole cooking process.
Message to contestants: "Good luck! Never give up!"

Next week, four more contestants will be eliminated. The remaining 12 will head straight to the semi-finals, yet another step closer to the Towngas Young Master Chef title.

Stay tuned to the feeds on our Facebook and Twitter, next Wednesday from 10am to 1pm for instant updates and photos. Check out next Friday's Young Post for the full story.

Complete coverage of:
Round One
Round Two
Round Three
Round Four
Round Six



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