Out of My Comfort Zone

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.

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A cloudy, chilly and atmospheric start to the day on the Manly Ferry.

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.

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Jason with Jeff Bridges, a supporter of 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.

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Pink and her husband Carey Hart are supporters of Chef Cycle are will participate in the ride next year!

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.

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Which one? So many choices. Parked outside Home, Manly.

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.

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Chef concentrates despite the cold.

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.

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Ready to go. Too chilly to hang around. Jason’s beautiful Stinner bike.

Shopping done, we returned to Manly Pavilion to cook together.

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Chef looks so cool. Eggs safely traveling back to Manly Pavilion.

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.

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The goods to be transformed shortly!

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.

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You call that a knife? Mine, for the morning, was on the left.

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.

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Chopping fennel fronds for the salad.

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.

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Final assembly for our meal which includes this giant cutting/serving board.

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.

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Enjoying brunch together over conversation and laughter.

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 !

x Sarah

Follow Jason Roberts on:  Twitter, Instagram and Manly Pavilion

Follow me on: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.veloaporter

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3 Comments

  1. How lovely – an excuse to ride, cook and eat!

    Is that a Linus Sac pannier you’re using, Sarah? I’m considering getting one as my regular pannier (since the Eleanor isn’t available in Australia in the navy colour any more), but the Sac looks slightly too unwieldy for everyday use… what do you think?

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    1. It’s not! I have the Sac too but I use it for the weekends and for just wallet, keys, phone, water not the laptop and other work accoutrements.
      The pannier that I’m using to carry the food is Ortleib. Not so beautiful but functional and durable.

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