You meet a lot of interesting people on Twitter, but you don't always have the chance to meet them in real life. When I 'met' Neill Anthony recently and learned that this talented young chef, who trained in kitchens of Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing and others, was making waves as a personal chef Cape Town, I wasted no time in putting him in an elbow-lock (virtually speaking, of course) and tweaking his ears until he agreed to present a master class for local food bloggers.
Not that he needed much tweaking. Neill was enthusiastic about the idea from the beginning, and together we planned a class that would challenge and inspire people who were keen to pick up top tips from some of England's finest kitchens. I didn't want any ordinary cooking demo - most of the best food bloggers and home cooks have long since mastered the basics, and beyond - but rather a class that would help already-competent cooks hone their skills and sharpen their recipes.
We were not disappointed. What I found so fascinating about watching Neill at work was his precision, his concentration, and his razor-sharp attention to detail. He has the lightest, nimblest fingers, and his work space is as clean and shining as an operating table. (A bit of an eye-opener for me, the world's messiest cook.)
And the food? Well, it was heavenly. What really opened my eyes was how Neill created such beautiful, clean-flavoured dishes using so few ingredients. And I mean really few ingredients: I shopped for the event, and I kept having to check and recheck my shopping list because the trolley seemed so empty.
After the demo, we all sat down to enjoy a beautiful three-course meal, with wines that Neill had bought along from Silverhurst. He also bought a big bottle of award-winning Willow Creek olive oil for each attendee (thanks, Willow Creek and Silverhurst!).
On the menu, hand-made ravioli and tortellini with a baby spinach, ricotta and liquid egg-yolk filling, served with a butternut purée and an onion and milk froth; Norwegian salmon with baby beetroot, and whole white beans and puréed beans with tarragon; and a boozy prune and brandy soufflé.
But I'll let the images tell the story. Below, you'll find some lovely pictures from the demo, taken by Barry White, a professional photographer, who - following instructions from his wife and boss, my dear friend Judy Levy - kindly tolerated us invading the White/Levy household. Judy and Barry have agreed to host future master classes at their beautiful home in Oranjezicht over the coming months. (Watch this space for details, or send me an email if you'd like to be on my mailing list: hobray at gmail.com.)
We're planning to hold similar master classes once a month, featuring Cape Town's top chefs. We'll also be inviting artisanal food producers to showcase their wares and demonstrate their recipes. (And another thank you to Verlaque Fine Foods, who gave us some beautiful bottles of their brilliantly flavoursome 'Splashes', balsamic reductions and preserves, and Sam Linsell of The Smoking Shed, who handed out samples of her fantastic smoked wares, which include an ethereal cold-smoked tuna; deliciously crunchy cashews and macadamias; and - for everyone to take home - blocks of cold-smoked butter and little packets of smoked sea salt.)
Disclosure: Verlaque Fine Foods, who provided product give-aways for this demo, is one of of my clients. Print Friendly