Cooking Class with Mik the Chef
By Nick Nugent
I arrived on a beautiful sunny day in a location that is not far from the middle of nowhere – an old army barracks that had been taken over by a number of arty types and eco warriors. To set the scene, here is an excerpt from Mikael’s rather impressive CV, which I have shamelessly lifted from his website :
Born 1959 in Gävle, Mikael lived in Sweden for 12 years, then moved to Lausanne Switzerland, where he started his career as a chef with an apprenticeship at the Lausanne Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel *****. Having worked in different hotels and countries, Mikael came back to Lausanne and, after some years, started his own catering / party service (1988). In August ‘96 he sold the catering business and moved to The Netherlands where he worked for KLM in-flight catering. After that he worked as product developer in the gastronomy industry.
Since it was in the middle of nowhere, most of the people coming got hopelessly lost and were quite a few minutes late. Luckily, I met one of the other participants getting off the bus, and so between us we worked out how to get there.
Mikael is a bit eccentric to say the least.
We started off with a glass of prosecco with some frozen berries and peas(!) in the sunshine outside while we waited for all to arrive and he explained the menu to us.
In summary this is what we were going to cook:
- Home baked bread
- Asparagus soup
- Home smoked mackerel on a purple potato salad with salted capers and a mustard dill sauce.
- Wild goose, stewed and roasted with an “ontbijtkoek“ sauce, green cabbage in a garlic cream sauce and roasted ‘forgotten’ vegetables
- White and dark chocolate mousse millefeuille with fresh fruits and raspberry coulis with Nepalese pepper
I think the price was discounted at €48 per person, and we could have a limited amount of wine during the preparation time plus as much free tea or coffee as we wanted. We could also buy additional wine for what he called a “reasonable” price.
Before we started any cooking, we were treated to his life story over an amuse of shavings of celeriac with truffle oil and black Hawaiian salt. This was another funky idea, which he explained comes from his training all over the world. In his words: “I apply all my experience to give it my own twist. Fusion-confusion cooking!”
The schedule was roughly the following:
4pm-7pm glass of bubbles/ pick plants outside/ cooking (mise en place) ·
7pm- 10 o’clock (approximately), finish cooking and begin eating.
During the introduction he explained about his philosophy of food. He likes using wild animals such as “Schiphol” geese, which are considered a pest, and to use local, honest “eco-correct” products. He also began to explain how he does not like to waste anything, and in a stock pot was all sorts of vegetable shavings and bits and pieces of animals.
There were five of us and there was work for ten, as he normally only accepts a minimum of ten people. His method for dishing out the jobs mostly consisted of walking around and giving the nearest person the next role. I ended up with the goose, which had to be cooked two ways. I had to brown off the confit legs and wings, then make a stew of them with aromat’s like star anise, cloves etc. Onions and carrots were added, followed by stock and red wine. After this had reduced considerably, some chopped up ontbijtkoek were added, which were used for the final thickening. For those of you who are not familiar with it, this is a type of light gingerbread. Again confusion cooking! In the meantime I had also begun to brown off two crowns of goose in a wok. This was quite physical work due to the size and awkwardness of the two birds in the pan. The goose kept spitting hot fat at me as well so dodging this was also a job. The goose got to a very dark brown before being put at 70⁰C in a portable oven. Then I was released for other duties which mostly involved filling my wine glass up, but I did manage to help with smoking the mackerel, cooking the cabbage and a few other bits and pieces. We were a good team however and I think he was surprised how fast we were working as we had a lot of time to talk and get to know one another.
After most of the cooking was done, the preparation for service and laying of the table took place. Everyone chipped in plating up and there was a great feeling of camaraderie. Then finally we got to eat.
So, a very brief overview of the food:
Asparagus Soup – had some seared asparagus in the bottom for extra flavour. I am not a big fan of asparagus at the best of times but this was pretty tasty
Smoked Mackerel Salad – This was very good and very summary. I enjoyed this one a lot.
Goose 2 ways – Well the stew turned out to be ok, even with ginger bread in it and the roasted goose was like duck and still pink even after 2 hours in the portable oven! Good dish – check out the pictures.
Mousse millefeuille – I think we had a problem with measurements on the dark chocolate one as I think it had split somewhat, but still tasty. The white chocolate mousse was great.
I really like this sort of social event and, if you want to try one yourself, then look no further than these pages and our Cooking Coach, Karen Vivers!