When I started this blog back in May, I never dreamed that I would be cooking on The Chopping Block stage at the Brisbane Good Food and Wine Festival. So when Brylee from Gourmet Garden told me that I'd made the Cook Off stage, I was rapt.
I thought hard about what to cook and finally decided on Crispy-skinned Ocean Trout with Coriander and Wasabi Butter, potato wedges and green beans. You can find the recipe here.
And then I practiced. I think D knew better than to complain when I served it up twice last week. We only had 25 minutes to prepare our dishes, so I wanted to get the timing right.
Eventually, I wrote a plan (in case I totally blanked on stage). My Year Eight Home Economics teacher can feel vindicated. Mrs Walker, you were right. It turns out I do need to plan my time in the kitchen.
The big day finally dawned on Saturday and we headed through the drizzle and Brisbane traffic to the Convention Centre with just one emergency wee stop (for the Big Sister, not me!)
I arrived at the Good Food and Wine Festival and Brylee whisked me backstage to do some preparation. Miguel Maestre was on The Chopping Block stage when I arrived. Later he came backstage to chat and I may have caught a glimpse of him with his shirt off, but that's a whole different blog post!
Soon, Louise from Lick the Spoon arrived and we got busy organising our ingredients and equipment.
I got some great advice on how to use the fancy pants oven and induction cooktop from the lovely VZUG sales rep. We recorded an interview for the video Gourmet Garden are producing of the Cook Off. We met the lovely Dominique Rizzo and Skye Craig and then it was time to get cooking!
I was most concerned about two parts of my dish - getting the potato wedges cooked in time and getting the skin on my trout crisped nicely. I did my wedges first - coating them in Gourmet Garden Roast Seasoning, salt and pepper and Bertolli olive oil. I popped them into the VZUG Combisteam oven on a special crisp and steam setting that the rep had suggested. I need not have worried about having them ready in time - the oven was up to speed in a heartbeat, and the clever crisp/steam setting made them beautifully moist in the middle and crisp and crunchy on the outside. I doubt I'll ever convince D to let me replace the oven of certain mediocrity with a VZUG, but a girl can dream!
With the wedges out of the way, I made my Coriander and Wasabi Butter, using Gourmet Garden Coriander, Chunky Garlic and Lemon Grass pastes and wasabi.
Then I got ready to cook my green beans - the water was boiled within a minute - induction cooktops are amazing!
Every thing was going great, and then I had one of those mortifying moments that you can't help but re-live over and over again.
I put my trout in the very hot pan and it began to curl. I hadn't bought an eggflip on stage and if it curled it wouldn't crisp. And when I couldn't think of what else to do, I put my hand on it. Yep, my hand. Onto the fish that I was about to serve to two professional chefs. Oh God. My hand! Of course, it didn't go unnoticed. Dominique helpfully pointed out to the audience what I'd done and suggested that if they had a similar problem at home they might take off their thong and use that. So I did what do all reasonable people do when faced with public mortification. I laughed maniacally.
Mercifully, things moved on pretty quickly after that. There was time for a quick photo while we were plating up.
Then the countdown started.... I topped my trout with a quinelle of coriander and wasabi butter and Dominique told me I watch too much TV. Harsh, but probably true!
Then the judges sat down to taste our offerings, while Louise and I stood on watching nervously.
The judges deliberated, and after what seemed like an eternity, they returned to the stage to deliver their decision.
They had lovely things to say about both of our dishes. They complimented Louise's salmon - saying it was made with love and plated creatively. They also had nice things to say about my dish - they liked the flavours of my butter and said I'd managed to crisp the skin on the trout nicely (phew!) and then, mortifying fish molestation apparently forgotten, they declared me the winner! Woo hoo!
Louise and I then got a chance to sit down and taste each other's dishes.
There was time for a few photos (and a little bit more recording for the video) and then it was over as soon as it had begun.
Thanks to Gourmet Garden, I'll be joining bloggers from Sydney, Melbourne, Norway and Spain at a Blogging Conference on the Sunshine Coast in May next year. There will be a final cook-off at the conference and a winner will be chosen to be the Gourmet Garden spokesperson for a year.
Me? I'm so excited at the prospect of meeting other foodie bloggers and getting the opportunity to visit some of the fine food producers here on the Sunshine Coast.
I have to admit, it was all great fun. I was surprised at how enjoyable it was cooking on stage. Dominique and Skye were very entertaining (even if it was at my well-deserved expense!).
I also enjoyed meeting Louise from Lick the Spoon - she's as lovely in person as the recipes on her website. Please pop over and visit her beautiful site. Her presentation is incredible and the photography is gorgeous.
Yesterday, after all the excitement had died down, I discovered that Miguel Maestre and D got talking while I was on stage. Miguel admired the Sisters and D pointed out that their Mummy was on the Chopping Block.
Miguel then told D "You are indeed a rich man".
I think I may have a new favourite celebrity chef!