Learning the art of dining Chez Cristina

I’m very fortunate to have a Spanish friend who LOVES cooking and is blessed in the art of teaching it effortlessly, especially in front of a camera. Whilst working as her sous chef I also wanted the experience of photographing the work in progress and writing it up later on my website.

So just before my birthday we got together to make her version of the Arròs Negre. Friends were invited to join us later to enjoy the fruits of our labour so the pressure was on to make this a success!

The art of cuisine is truly about creating edible love for all the senses and knowing how to exhibit the great work to share with others. As sous chef, I was amazed to see my master chef multitasking everything from the napkin layout, explaining the types of arroz in Spain, keeping an eye on my chopping and generally making it look all effortless!

So this is the Arròs negre simmering in a ceramic cazuela (photo below), just as the guests were arriving and chatter began.

Arròs negre simmering in a ceramic cazuela

So what did I learn as the sous chef. Well, I don’t want to give away all the secrets away of my master chef, but I will share a few highlights!

First, PREPARATION is everything!

The sous chef should be on top of:

  • keeping the master chef happy!
  • the chopping and cutting for the whole menu
  • preparing the wine/glasses
  • prepping the cheese board
  • prepping the pre-dinner nibbles
  • prepping the lighting, ambience and the table setting
  • tidying up, washing up and keeping the kitchen clean
  • being prepared to receive guests
  • watching the timing throughout
  • being mindful of post dinner activities, topping up drinks/nibbles
  • … Phew!

Chopping begins for the menu and pre dining nibbles

The Arròs negre comes to life!

Arròs negre starts out with the garlic, peppers…

Arròs negre takes on the colour of paprika, saffron and other secret ingredients!

Squid ink is added…

My master chef explained the importance of using the right rice for various types of Spanish rice dishes. I understood this is related to the whiteness in the rice grain and its size. I just love the Spanish rice sacks and the labeling…!

Special type of Arroz from Spain

Can you spot which is the best rice for this dish??
Trade secrets from the master chef!

Spanish queso – how I would love to try them all in my lifetime! I love Manchego and Quesu de Cabrales, so I was delighted to enjoy Manchego on this occasion.

Manchego cheese

First guest arrives and hugs the cooks! I think we needed it!

A guest hugs the sous chef and master chef

The master chef must take full credit for this dessert magically whipped up in minutes! This tasted amazing…

Mascarpone and orange dessert

Voilà! A wonderful evening with friends!

Arròs negre ready for dining!

Originally published: Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 at 23:45 in Aproned Angel, Monologues


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