Look at this man. He seems pretty normal, right? He doesn’t particularly look like his life would make you swoon with jealousy. He doesn’t immediately strike you as one of the luckiest men on the planet. And his outward demeanour wouldn’t necessarily compel you to wish your lives were reversed. Be that as it may, I want to be this man. And what’s more YOU want to be this man. And you actually can be… Ever heard of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Well, this man is Willie Wonka and you really could be Charlie…
Micah Carr-Hill is the Head of Taste at premium chocolate brand, Green & Blacks. That basically means that he’s in charge of the different flavours that Green & Blacks produce – and his job (his actual real job) is to experiment with and try different variations of chocolate all. day. long. He is paid to eat chocolate. This is surely every inner-child’s fantasy. And now for the amazing news: he’s looking for a new Taste Assistant.
Here’s the low-down:
So basically the job (as I understand it) would involve travelling around the world to source ingredients. Tick. Experimenting and creating recipes using chocolate all day long. Tick. And eating as much chocolate as you can bear. Double tick. It’s a tough old job, eh, but somebody’s got to do it. So why shouldn’t it be you?
Well as you can imagine, with such an amazing job up for grabs the recruitment process ain’t gonna be a stroll in the proverbial park. It’s going to be gruelling succession of tough tests to check that you have the minerals to make it as Micah’s Taste Assistant. And I, along with a number of other food bloggers, was invited by Green & Blacks to give a few of them a go to get a feel for what the applicants would be up against. Let me just put it like this: I at least won’t be giving up my day job.
The first test of the night was the Chocolate Taste Test. Micah presented us with two chocolate ganaches (one white, one dark) and we were expected to be able to discern some subtle flavours in the chocolate. Well, subtle it was indeed. I’m afraid my palate completely fell apart under the pressure. The dark chocolate ganache tasted like, well, dark chocolate. I fared little better with the white chocolate. The flavours were apparently coriander and coriander seeds in the dark chocolate and white tea, lime and vanilla in the white. Meh, I got nothing! However, thankfully it seemed that most people were equally stumped. Mimi (of Meemalee’s Kitchen) fared the best, guessing green tea, lemon and vanilla (which is pretty darn close) for the white chocolate ganache. She won a lovely set of cookbooks for her impressive palate.
The second test was a Cocktail Taste Test with the cocktails prepared by Johan Svensson from Drinks Fusion. Due to my ‘delicate state of health‘, I obviously had to sit this one out, which is a shame as I actually think I would have done pretty well on that one (due to my history of cocktail bartending during my university years). Then again… maybe not. The cocktails were revealed as an Orange & Ginger Alexander (Cognac shaken with melted Green & Black’s chocolate and fresh cream, and seasoned with ginger and orange); and a “Moth Flower” martini (Black Moth Truffle Vodka, crème de mure, dry vermouth with lavender eaux de vie shaken with lemon and sugar, and topped with a violet foam). The winner was Jen from Chocolate Ecstasy Tours.
The event of the night, however, was the 15:15 challenge which nine food bloggers, myself included, signed up for (probably due to the KitchenAid-shaped first prize being dangled before us like a carrot). The challenge was simple enough: whip up any dish with a budget of £15 within 15 minutes. Sure, dead simple. Except to my mind, 15 minutes is barely enough time to boil water and cook pasta let alone do anything more sophisticated. So after some deliberation I decided it was better to avoid stress and just do my favourite old reliable crab linguine dish. I knew I could definitely get it on the plate in 15 minutes and it wouldn’t embarrass me. But I was very interested to see what everyone else would come up with.
We were split into two groups for the big cook-off. In the first group was Laura of Feasts on Scraps, Mimi from Meemalee’s Kitchen, The London Foodie Luiz, Jen from Chocolate Ecstasy Tours and Kavey of Kavey Eats.
First of all, my modest offering: the crab linguine with chilli, lemon zest and watercress. I cooked it in the 15 minutes with no problems at all and I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. Sure, it wasn’t going to win (especially as I looked round at my esteemed fellow competitors), but it tasted good and it looked quite pretty too.
People were quite complementary about it afterwards, and it seemed like a good number of forks were twisting and twirling for pasta in the post-Micah furore – so I was pleased as punch.
However, I was totally blown away by what my fellow bloggers whipped up in a mere 15 minutes. Here are my stand-out dishes.
Luiz went all out on presentation and plated these rather spectacular looking roast quail scattered decadently with pistachios and rose petals. The quail was beautifully cooked and dressed with a bitter chocolate sauce. It drew quite a crowd as he was plating it up, with oohs and ahhs liberally doled out as the final petals were scattered. There was a vulturesque surge to scavenge the leftovers after Micah had done his tasting, which is a good sign of a dish well done.
Jen served this delicate white and dark chocolate millefeuille with raspberries. I was amazed that she managed something so elegant in such a short amount of time. It was delicious.
I couldn’t try Laura’s dish because of the rare meat, but it is perhaps the one that called to me the most. Seared beef with coconut rice and a fiery chilli dressing (which I think was kind of like a Vietnamese nuoc cham sauce – though I could be completely wrong). Laura won 2nd prize for her dish and I looked on with envy as everyone destroyed Micah’s leftovers.
I was stunned by Simon’s deconstructed duck cassoulet. That he produced this beautifully put together dish in 15 minutes blows my small mind. I (again) couldn’t try the duck, but the bean cassoulet was so full of flavour and creamy. I definitely think he achieved the most in the short time allowed.
However, my absolute favourite dish of the night was Mimi’s amazing Japanese Wafu linguine – and it actually went on to win, so I guess Micah agreed. The combination of the Japanese herbs, mushrooms and salmon roe with the pasta was unlike anything I’d ever tasted before. As Mimi points out in her post, it encapsulates all five of the tastes – Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Umami. The balance of flavours was exquisite and it was a worthy winner.
Look how delighted I was with it!
So Mimi quite rightly walked away with the beautiful red KitchenAid and she was so humble when she heard her name called (she even cried a little bit, bless her) it made me love her even more than I already did. What a legend!
Though a KitchenAid is like the holy grail to food obsessives like me and my fellow food bloggers, the real prize is still to be won. So if you fancy your chances at that amazing dream job, upload your CV at www.pieceofgreenandblacks.co.uk, and answer some knowledge based taste related questions. Closing date for entries is 16th December 2010. The successful candidate is expected to take up their role early 2011.
GOOD LUCK!!I forgot my camera on the night (like an idiot) so photos were kindly provided by Green & Blacks. Thanks so much to the Green & Black’s team for a simply wonderful evening! We all had such fun. Thanks also to The Miele Showroom who provided the venue and the space-age kitchen spaces we cooked in.