Baking, filleting and soufflés: A three-hour kitchen experience in Glover’s Alley
I would like to say I’m relatively good at cooking; I mean, I make fantastic homemade burgers and chips, delicious gnocchi – ok, I made them once about two years ago but my brother’s and sister-in-law are still talking about them – and I’ve got scrambling eggs down to a fine art. So when the opportunity arose to spend a morning in the kitchen at Glover’s Alley it was the perfect opportunity to showcase my skills.
The morning starts at 9am with a quick tour of the kitchen with executive chef Andy McFadden where we meet the team before watching Andy prepare three types of bread for the day ahead. As he cuts, rolls and fills the bread he offers us the chance to join in … but we’re not quite ready to do the work we’d signed up for; dream employees some might say.
As we’re taking it all in, building up our courage, the deliveries are arriving and each member of the team flocks to assess the produce and ensure that only the finest is taken to prepare each dish. Here it’s all about minimising waste and the team work hard to ensure that everything is used and nothing goes in the bin.
Once the bread is ready to proof, we move to the fish station where head chef Philip Roe makes filleting sole look easy. He carefully explains the process, outlining certain points to watch out for and little things that will make it easier for you. He lied; Philip makes it look easy. He moves the knife through the fish as if he’s gliding it through the air. Understandably, you don’t get to be a head chef for being sound, you have to be good at what you do, but it gave me this twinge of confidence that I could potentially master filleting a fish and I’d be downing the pen and paper and be taking up the filleting knife for good.
This was not the case. I’m midway through filleting the sole when I realise that I’ve probably left more of the fish on the skin than taken it off. I attempted to pack it in but Chef was having none of it. His firm “I want you to finish this,” makes me realise that the kitchen is probably not a time to throw a strop and I persist to produce an average to mediocre fillet of fish; my career as a chef not so bright.
The next step is scallops. Still in their shell, Philip once again makes it look easy as he has the shell opened and scallop prepped in a matter of seconds. The most traumatic part of this was that the scallops are still alive in the shells, but I’m not going to dwell on that part too much. This challenge proved more successful and my scallop was then sliced and prepared into a delicious ceviche dish for us to taste.
Around us, the team are busily preparing for lunch service, and once we move from the fish section I can see Philip power through trays of scallops in a record amount of time. We taste 80-day salt-aged sirloin from Peter Hannan as well as a demonstration of cooking the lamb shoulder dish before heading out to Aoife Noonan in the pastry section.
Here, the executive pastry chef is prepping bread rolls and we all join in rolling, twisting and slicing before mine is thrown in the bin because I made an absolute mess of it; bread is complicated, trust me.
Aoife takes things to another level and truly finds the way to my heart with a citrus soufflé topped with Manjari chocolate sorbet. I make a mental note to let the group chat to know that my lemon sorbet and chocolate gelato combination is never to be judged again because Aoife knows flavour combinations.
After a strenuous morning of labour (ahem!), our morning has come to an end, and it’s time to say goodbye to the kitchen and take a seat in the restaurant where we’re served a glass of champagne, followed by a four-course tasting menu. By the time I leave I’ve definitely done more eating than hard work, but I’m now more determined to master filleting a fish and am extremely appreciative of the work that goes into the dishes that are produced. I’m also looking forward to my guest chef call-up from the lads in Glover’s Alley any day now.