Recently, I was invited to attend 2 sessions with Masterchef’s Alvin Quah at the Pick n Pay Good Food Studio in Sandton, Johannesburg. Alvin was brought over by Quantas and Pick n Pay to do a series of short demonstrations as well as longer hands-on workshops for the growing number of keen cooks out there since Masterchef Australia and other reality food shows aired.
Alvin was a complete hit with the ladies attending the demonstration, and engaged with them personally as they got to help him chop, peel and stir fry their way through his delicious Asian menu. Later on during the hands on workshop Alvin quickly demonstrated a menu to my colleagues and I, after which we split up and moved through to the two cooking kitchens to replicate the dishes ourselves.
Here is that day in pictures:
The Good Food studio is located on the mezzanine level of the Pick n Pay on Nicol, their new flagship store on bustling William Nicol drive.
With dramatic views down into the store, the studio opens up into a modern, warm space.
Next to the recipe book library is a bar that serves excellent coffee and French champagne which attendees enjoy as they take a moment in the pause area.
On to the demonstration…
Alvin shares the importance of the quality of ingredients. This is not a new thing for any of us, but Alvin reiterated that in China big emphasis is placed on using the freshest ingredients, which are only sourced within that village or province. Very much a view I agree with.
The demonstration menu was in fact a feast of three dishes that would ideally be served at one sitting, as each individually contributed important flavour elements. Buddah’s Garden was the name given to a mixed mushroom, shallot and pepper dish paired with sao zing wine, tamarind, ginger & mushroom stock to make this very subtle, slightly woody, mild vegetarian dish.
Bashed and bruised salad colourfully describes the way this salad of snake beans, cherry tomatoes, lebanese cucumber, peanuts, shrimp paste and garlic come together with lime, chillies, fish sauce and palm sugar to create a truly complex, tart yet fresh salad. Upon taking a bite, my taste buds exploded with punchy flavours and crunchy freshness. It was wonderful! The ginger, garlic & fish paste were very bold, but the tomatoes seemed to tone that down just perfectly. It was also very spicy. Alvin adores spicy food.
Kung po chicken completed the trifecta of dishes, bringing deep nutty flavours in the form of Chinese black vinegar, soy sauce, sichuan pepper, and roasted cashews. Deboned thigh meat was used for its tenderness and rich flavour. These dishes were served together and complimented each other perfectly. I could not manage a whole bowl of any one of these dishes by itself, but eaten together they offer a kind of harmonious respite from each other, that kept my chopsticks glued to my fingers.
Later on, my colleagues and I gathered together for Alvin’s hands-on workshop which included a menu of the aforementioned Buddah’s garden salad, a green duck curry and a drunken & bruised chicken dish. We watched Alvin demonstrate each dish, and then donned our aprons and, in pairs headed to the cooking kitchens to give Alvin’s menu a bash.
Alvin explains to Priscilla and Tineka that the dressing for the Buddah’s garden salad must be a good balance between sweet, salty and sour. Some people may prefer a sweeter/more sour/saltier dressing so it becomes essential one uses ones taste buds to guide this process.
It was such a fun day out, and a great opportunity to interact in a different way with my work colleagues. The Good Food Studio run a host of fun, interactive food-fueled events at top class premises. Think brandy & chocolate pairings, sushi masterclasses, bachelor workshops and foodie brand launches, the space is versatile and impressive.
To enquire about a class, or use the studio as a venue contact Nicola Johnson on 011 998 3310 . You can also drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Pick n Pay on Nicol, corner Republic & William Nicol in Sandton.