For our final Secret Suppers event of 2016 we wanted to host a dinner with a suitably festive theme, but with a clear focus on the fundamental spirit of the season – gratitude.
Deneil, Mel and I have been blown away by the response to our Secret Suppers concept, which has consistently grown in strength and following since our first dinner back in April, and we’re so grateful for every bit of support and encouragement given to us along the way.
The number of local diners willing to take a risk on an adventurous food experience, only being advised of the venue the day before the event and trusting us to deliver a fine menu and great night out, has truly been phenomenal. For that, we thank you – all of you!
It’s been challenging, a lot of very hard work and a lot of late nights but the creative fulfilment we get from pulling off each event has been marvellous. I get such a thrill out of it.
We’re not bound by the parameters of a normal restaurant, by a specific location, or theme, or cuisine – each event culminates in a night shaped entirely by our whims.
It’s total creative freedom. We can be as crazy as we like and we absolutely love it. And the best part is that other people seem to love it too!
Working in the test kitchen is my favourite part of each event, as that’s where so many of the crazy ideas emerge and where some of our biggest challenges have been overcome.
Once we’ve decided on a theme, the three of us spend a number of days brainstorming every conceivable dish, flavour combination and technique for the menu. A shortlist of the top ideas is compiled and then comes the test kitchen.
Like three daft scientists in a laboratory, we each set about putting together dishes or elements for the others to taste and evaluate. Some dishes come together straight away but some have been notoriously more difficult. Sometimes one complete plate will be entirely shaped by one individual but it’s more often the case that the dishes which make it to the final menu reflect different elements from each of us, whether it be the adding of a sauce here or seasoning there or a different presentation. It’s very much a team effort.
Mel is an executive chef with years of commercial experience, and her technical expertise has been invaluable when it comes to trickier things like mousses and gels and the science of gastronomy. The blow torch is her favourite weapon, so we regularly try to get something on the menu that can be set on fire.
Deneil is a culinary da Vinci, whose boundless imagination and enthusiasm has culminated in some of our most unconventional dishes (think pulled pork loukoumades with honey, or the incredible beetroot dessert at Truffles and All Things Underground). Admittedly there are times when I’ve been skeptical in response to her flights of fancy but I’m in absolute awe of her vision and ingenuity.
For a festive supper focusing on gratitude, we drew our inspiration from Christmas and flavours from Thanksgiving.
Being an American tradition, we knew that a lot of our guests wouldn’t have eaten dishes like pumpkin pie or candied yams, so it was wonderful coming up with ways to incorporate such traditional fare into a vibrant modern menu.
gratitude supper | menu
individual baked macaroni and cheese, with glazed eschalots, panko-crumbed bocconcini, crispy pancetta and parmesan crumb
skillet cornbread, charred corn kernels, corn wafer, corn mousse and chilli lime salt
turkey breast with sage stuffing, pan-fried gnocchi, brown butter sauce and candied yam purée
slow-braised beef short rib, served with tomato pickle and jalapeño sprout slaw
pumpkin spice cheesecake with praline shards, pear and crème fraîche
Entertainment for the evening came in the form of some cheeky competition between our guests. For the first course - macaroni and cheese – we challenged guests to come up with their cheesiest pick-up lines, and for the second course – a celebration of corn – guests had to come up with their corniest jokes.
It was great fun, provided a lot of laughter and very much captured the communal spirit of the evening.