Lavazza's new range
The Lavazza masterclass provided a platform for the launch of a new range of coffee drinks unique to Lavazza: Il Laboratorio Del Caffe, designed to give the industry a new edge. In the interactive session, delegates learned to distinguish between the different types of coffee - robusta and arabica - and to recognise the varying tastes produced by blends, rather like the wine-tasting process. The masterclass aimed to enable establishments to select the best coffee for their customers. For more information, or to attend Lavazza's Coffee Training Centre, telephone Annabelle Berry on 020 8994 6382, extension 13.
The art of pasta-making was unveiled to delegates who attended the pasta workshop run by Giorgio Locatelli in the Millennium Britannia's banqueting kitchen.
Chef-proprietor of Zafferano in London's Knightsbridge, where between 4kg and 8kg of pasta are made daily, Locatelli demonstrated the process from making the dough, through rolling and cutting the different shapes, to cooking the finished product. "I'm not an expert on pasta - I just do it," he declared.
Ravioli fillings prepared and cooked by Locatelli and members of his brigade included borage, bottarga (tuna roe), and oxtail, all of which met with approval from the tasters. The favourite, though, was a potato filling made from Jersey potatoes with butter and rosemary. "That's why Italian restaurateurs drive Ferraris," joked Locatelli. "They give you potato to eat and charge a lot for it." Apparently, he doesn't drive a Ferrari himself.
Marcus Wareing, chef-patron of London newcomer Petrus, gave an insight into his menu composition with the display of four dishes from his set-lunch and à la carte menus.
The dishes were red mullet pan-fried with aubergine "caviare", peas à la cräme and lentil velouté; sautéd scallops with tortellini of leek and onion confit with ginger and horseradish cream; roasted fillet of sea bass served with sautéd salsify and baby leeks and rich red wine jus; and navarin of John Dory and scallop with crab tortellini, fried parsley and shellfish bisque. The dishes demonstrate his passion for fish, as well as flavour (he told the visiting chefs that he tastes every sauce and cut of meat that crosses his pass).
Underlining his commitment to Petrus, which he opened at the end of 1998, and which won its first Michelin star in January this year, he said he starts work at 7.30am each morning and works through to 1am most nights.
"My career is based around cooking, not sleeping," he commented. "It's an obsession and I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I need only three hours' sleep during the week. I know I can sleep at the weekends."
Dorchester dim sum display
A dextrous display of dim sum-making enthralled a group of 30 chefs visiting the Dorchester from the conference.
Cheung Ngan Tung, who can make up to 2,000 dim sum daily for the hotel's Oriental restaurant and banqueting rooms, as well as doing garnish work and preparing Chinese puddings, was joined by Kenneth Poon, the hotel's number one Chinese chef and newly appointed executive chef Henry Brosi.
Cheung used a rice flour paste and a Chinese yellow noodle paste (with more bite) to make the little dumplings that were filled with one of three fillings - prawns and garlic, chicken and mushroom, or chicken and spring onion. Depending on the type of paste, the dim sum were either steamed in bamboo baskets, fried or baked.
Brosi, who spoke to the audience on behalf of Cheung Ngan Tuan, who speaks little English, explained that to become proficient as a dim sum chef takes 15 years of training. "The position is highly skilled and demands the second highest salary in the Chinese kitchen," he said.
The 10 Chinese chefs at the Dorchester work in a kitchen separate from the main kitchen. Most of them have been at the hotel for nine years since the re-opening of the Dorchester following refurbishment. "It is the only area of the hotel where the chefs work split shifts and they don't work on Saturday morning or Sundays."
The visiting chefs also received a tour of the hotel's eight kitchens, where a total of 103 chefs work.