We had to produce three dishes, an amuse bouche for 50 guests and two dishes that only the judges would try. After much discussion over the options, we decided the best route would be to take the guests on a journey of starters, mains, and pudding (dessert for those across the pond). We began by serving the crowd my mini scotch quail eggs – which were a hit among the Miami natives who had never seen anything of the sort, followed by the main course of Pie & Mash to the judges. Dessert was an easy decision: Custard tart, raspberry compote, and shortbread biscuits served with sweet English breakfast tea. I used to sell it at my stall in London, and it doesn’t get more British than that. The best advice I’ve ever had in cooking competitions is to stick with what you’re good at, and that’s exactly what we were going to do.
With all this decided, we counted down the days and I began prep lists and emails with local suppliers and breweries.
Three Days ‘til Finals
I landed in Fort Lauderdale late in the evening to be greeted by a rather excited Viv and Sandy, the dog. Viv and Frenchy had me under strict instructions to focus, avoid any distractions and stay out of trouble until after the finals. There was a lot of work to do!
The following morning I started early. I had arranged a lot beforehand, through the power of the internet, so it was just a question of meeting the suppliers and picking it all up. First up was Proper Sausages, an independent butcher who was to supply the sausage meat for the mini scotch eggs and the ground beef for the pie. Freddy, the owner, is married to a Londoner, so not only could he understand my accent, but he also knew exactly what I was after and why.
Next up was Wynwood Brewery, who was going to supply us with the beer for the beef and ale pie. After much discussion with Dominic, we decided on using Wynwood Fox, an imperial dry red ale that would not only pair well as a beverage but as an ingredient giving great flavour, richness and colour to the beef.
A few supermarkets later, I finally found an Italian butcher, Laurenzo's, for some bone marrow and, I was pretty-much-done shopping and back in the kitchen ready to get cooking and practice our presentation. After a couple of days, including several pastry disasters and some bad language (apologies to Viv & flatmate Jackie, although why do Americans always giggle when Brits curse?), my food prep and our presentation was ready for the finals.
And Finally, The Finals