I rarely take the ferry to Manly, being inner-city based, but I went to see Jason Roberts, Executive Chef at Manly Pavilion last Sunday. I find Manly, like the rest of the Northern Beaches, to be another world (and a thousand miles from care, yes). We stayed as a family on Manly Beach a few summers ago for a week. We took all of our bicycles by combination of van and ferry. We discovered great beaches, food and drink and that bicycling is commonplace. However, the lack of diversity is startling. Having grown up in Minnesota, it’s nothing new but it’s noticeable in comparison to living in the inner-city. But, I can deal. Armed with pannier bag and e-bike, I took the ferry to meet Jason for our #bikeshopeat adventure.
Since opening Manly Pavilion in June, Jason is short on time. Despite that, he is enthusiastic and energetic. Consequently, I was delighted that he agreed to #bikeshopeat with me. Despite wearing lycra, shaving and training on a road bike, (all classic signs of following the Velominati) he sees value in using it as a form of transport. As one of the instigators of Chef Cycle in the US, a brilliant fundraiser for No Kid Hungry, he firmly believes in the need to provide the body with the correct fuel. Without it he couldn’t work the long hours as a chef, think and function much less to ride several hundred miles in a few days for Chef Cycle.
On the way to the Manly markets, we discussed poverty in America. The scenes post- Hurricane Katrina showed us the underbelly of the American Dream. The poor and vulnerable include 1 in 5 American kids who do not get the food they need every day. The summer school holidays extend from June to September and sadly, many go hungry without the free or subsidised school breakfast or lunch.
No Kid Hungry seek to supplement the US government’s school breakfast and lunch programs which are woefully underfunded. I recalled memories of my own public school lunches. President Reagan’s classification of ketchup as a vegetable, the bags of treated (with what?) pre-cut iceberg lettuce for my high school’s salad bar, the grey hamburgers which always gave me a stomach ache, and pizza fish (really, you don’t want to know). I mentioned Michael Moore’s video on the French public school lunch program which blew me away recently.
We stopped for a quick coffee at Home, his friend Squiddy’s cafe, to warm up. We were treated to tea and delicious paleo treats. Not long after, we arrived at the Manly Markets just off the Corso.
The produce and eggs were fresh. We decided to make something for breakfast/brunch. I bought a low-GI, gluten free, soda bread which was ambitious and inspiring. I placed our purchases in my pannier bag. It’s hard to carry bulky foods while on a road bike. Jason placed the eggs in his backpack.
Shopping done, we returned to Manly Pavilion to cook together.
Here was my greatest fear and hope realised. I was going to be cooking in a professional kitchen with a professional chef. I cook most of our meals at home. I am largely self-taught and have a bookcase full of cookbooks with different cuisines that I use regularly. I have absorbed European and Asian cooking techniques.
My knife skills are good. My kids recently asked me what I wanted for my upcoming birthday. My answer: A really sharp knife that no one else uses.
But, this kitchen operation was a different scale altogether. And of course, while stepping into someone else’s kitchen, I had no idea where anything was. Jason’s staff had already started their day and here I was, the interloper. I noticed it first when we arrived in the kitchen. When Chef arrived, everyone was busy and at attention and paid their respect to his presence. There were smiles all around for me and quick introductions.
We had originally discussed an omelette at the market but little did I know what Jason’s creative mind had in store. I was handed a clean apron and I asked for a hat because I didn’t want my long hair to fall into the food. Jason handed me a chef’s hat.
And we began.
I think the greatest difference between a professional chef and mum-cooking is speed and scale. My tasks were minimal. I prepared the brussel sprouts and used the mandolin to slice the fennel for the salad. In that time, Jason had already started on the mushrooms, sausages and made quick work of the brussel sprouts.
But I was pleased to recognise the mandolin (mine is smaller) and was able to slice the fennel without slicing my hand open. Jason provided the special treats for this brunch which were the house-made sauerkraut and sausages.
When the dish was assembled, we took it into the dining room together and sat down to eat. Jason was visibly relaxed at this point and remarked that he doesn’t often have time to sit down and enjoy a meal. Santo, the CEO of Miramare Group (and Jason’s boss), joined us for brunch.
There was enough food for four people. I ate until I could eat no more. Not long after we finished talking, eating and laughing, I excused myself as Jason had a full day of work ahead. I know that he often finishes at 1am and drives over the bridge to return home to the Eastern Suburbs.
Perhaps, he might consider riding an e-bike to and from home, maybe in the rain too? A little bit out of his comfort zone, I know…
Happy #bikeshopeat !