I love that when Chef John Placko of the Modern Culinary Academy (the guy who has dined at El Bulli in Spain and Noma in Denmark – read his impressive bio here) comes to work with Les Petits Chefs that he thinks big. Like me, John believes that with the right kind of guidance, kids can pretty much do anything in the kitchen – as evidenced by his previous visits. I mean, one time, he showed them how to make sous vide caramelized bananas with coconut gel and snow and another time, it was a plate composed of melon caviar, yoghurt sheets, carbonated strawberries, cranberry snow and chocolate micro sponge. Amazing, right?
This week we got to watch John work his molecular magic once again – the marriage of science and food and wowing the boys with his magic gadgets and ingredients. John sent me the recipe for “Rhubarb in textures” and I knew the boys would love making all the components – white chocolate snow, sous vide poached rhubarb, rhubarb foam made from the poaching liquid that would then be brûléed, and a liquid nitrogen rhubarb ice cream. Ambitious? Maybe. But totally do-able. John is super organised and such a great teacher – he totally “gets” how little boys work and had everything organised in stations before the boys arrived in the lab and then had them sitting down with aprons on, washed hands and recipes in hand reading them over before we got started. Because if you have an organised setup, you’re definitely setting yourself up for success when cooking with kids.
We distributed the stations amongst the boys and everyone just got to work. I love that they found themselves working with very different types of ingredients, techniques and cooking equipment but it didn’t stop them from just getting on with it. For what seemed like the first time in a very long time, we actually followed the recipes to the letter! And, you know, we had a mission – to get to the point where we would make the liquid nitrogen ice cream. John gave them a sneak peek at the beginning of the class…
So we got to work. First, we poached the rhubarb in the sous vide machine, drained the liquid and chopped the pieces in “an attractive fashion”…
We mixed melted white chocolate with maltodextrin to make SNOW!
And then whipped the rhubarb poaching liquid with VersaWhip
At this point the boys got to plate the foam with some of the poached rhubarb and the “snow”…
But wait, there’s more. John showed the boys how to combine yoghurt with the rhubarb purée and then add liquid nitrogen to make quick ice cream!
I can’t even tell you how impressed I was to see this. Each boy plated his dish independently and I think I’m safe in saying none of these would be out of place in a restaurant. But the proof, as they say, is in the
Yup, for the most part, the boys LOVED this plate. Not everyone was a fan of the rhubarb but everyone tasted most of the components. But more than the eating – the creation of this dish was so much fun. And proof of what kids can do if you give them a chance. I have to imagine that a few of the boys have already asked their parents if they can buy a tank of liquid nitrogen – sorry about that!
John – thank you so much for an(other) amazing session. We are so lucky to have generous chefs like you who are willing to come and share your talent, knowledge and gadgets with these boys (and me!). We hope you might want to come back next year!
If you’re interested in checking out some of John’s “magic” ingredients and equipment, you can buy Powder for Texture products at Nella Cucina or check out the Powder for Texture catalogue online and don’t forget to follow John Placko on Twitter.
This was the last Petits Chefs post until September (I KNOW – where did that year go?) but don’t worry – I’ll be back in the Fall with another great term of activities. Thank you for reading these posts this year. They are honestly true highlights of each and every week for me.
Canadian readers: Win a copy of Ruth Reichl’s “Delicious!” Ends Sunday June 15th 2014 6pm EST. Details here.