One of the world’s best chefs has spent three days teaching TasTAFE student’s his techniques and mantra of cooking as part of the Great Chefs Series.
Brazilian chef Alex Atala was named the seventh best chef in the world earlier this week, but he did not make the award ceremony, instead he was diving at Flinders Island and exploring Northern Tasmania’s world-class produce.
Renowned for his passion and advocacy of local Brazilian ingredients, Atala has featured on Netflix series Chef’s Table, and Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover.
For three days Launceston’s Drysdale cookery students worked alongside Atala, soaking up his wisdom and love of food.
“I came from the other part of the world so sometimes it is too easy to show them recipes that they will never be able to produce again, so our main idea is to have a balance between Brazilian and Tasmanian ingredients, and Australian recipes,” Atala said.
“I try to explain to them not only how we mix or match flavours, but also the techniques that we are applying.
“Techniques are like a magnificent lens: they make a good chef better and the worse chef even worse.”
Students watched on as Atala taught them the technique and timing required to make red-onion puree.
“If the temperature is right and you add vinegar in the right moment, the red colour comes up, otherwise if the heat is too high or you didn’t apply the exact amount, it goes lightly brown or golden,” he said.
One of the dishes Atala taught the students to prepare comprised of a lamb’s kidney, brain and meat.
“It is unusual ingredients even for a professional chef,” he said.
“We started from the very beginning; the selection, how to clean, how to blanch and then how to apply the right technique to use in the end.”
There are three rules in Atala’s kitchen: don’t run, don’t stop and don’t talk. The rules may come across as intense, but each one has a powerful message behind it.
“I’m trying to make them more focused and more helpful,” he said.
Atala said they don’t run because it is important to complete each step with precision, making a chef much faster than someone who tries to cut corners.
There is no stopping because there is always more to be done, so find a way to be helpful.
Talking is distracting and if “we want to do something perfect, or near perfection, we need to be calm and focused”.
Since arriving in Launceston on Monday, Atala has been sampling and discovering some of Tasmania’s most iconic foods.
“Abalone is breathtaking and the pepperberries are unbelievable, I love it,” he said.
“We went to Flinders Island and our guide was a fisherman, he showed me how to work the abalone properly.
“It was kind of a cooking class for myself.”
Atala is the final chef to cook at Josef Chromy Wines for this year’s Great Chefs Series. Diners will be treated to a seven-course degustation at the sold-out event on October 5.
The menu lists the key Tasmanian and Brazilian ingredients of each dish, but leaves the interpretation of those ingredients and flavours up to the diner.
“Flavours bring us together,” Atala said.
Diners will also have the chance to discover some of the traditional Brazilian flavours Atala is famous for.
“In Australia, and mainly in Tasmania, have a new world of flavours,” he said.
“I could spend three months easily here, just trying and tasting, there are just so many possibilities.”
While the chef’s trip to Tasmania was brief, he said he would be back.