Birds chirped in the background as eager food aficionados descended upon Vascos restaurant on Monday at the Abu Dhabi Hiltonia's outdoor terrace to participate in three-Michelin star Masterchef Heinz Beck's culinary class.
One of a series of classes organised by Gourmet Abu Dhabi, it allowed participants to not only interact with world-renowned chefs but gave them the opportunity to indulge the chef that lives inside all of us.
Most of the participants were there either to brush up on their cooking skills, to learn new recipes and techniques or to be in the presence of a world-renowned chef. I was there to see if there was any hope I could learn a recipe without burning down my kitchen. When I arrived, I was given a professional-looking folder that contained a leaflet with the recipes that were a part of that day's programme. A quick glance and my heart sank. Fagottelli 'La Pergola', Duck liver with Lemon Foam and Mint Powder, Sedanini pasta with Crab, Smoked Aubergine Coulis and Croutons. The fancy titles made me feel doubtful that I could replicate them.
Beck took to the stage and launched straight into the 'duck liver dish. Explaining the steps to creating it in a semi-German/Italian accent, the masterchef began by whipping up the lemon foam, only to have it taken away by a member of his team when it was set aside. When his flame burner was also taken away while his back was turned, he joked, "I have a very organised team, they keep taking everything away!"
Everything was soon brought back, along with a surprising addition - liquid nitrogen, a substance so cold (-200 C) that plumes of freezing mist drifted out of the bowl. It was used to create the mint powder by spraying blended mint sauce straight into it. When someone expressed their doubt about acquiring liquid nitrogen, Beck grinned and said "Just go to a dermatologist and request that he hook you up, that's what I do when I'm at home."
Beck then moved onto the recipe for 'Fagottelli 'La Pergola', which he invented to combat the heavy feeling he got after eating pasta carbonara. As he was about to put the ravioli into the pot to cook, the stove died and then another piece of equipment vanished, forcing him to substitute it to finish cooking the meal.
Saving the best dish for last: 'Sedanini pasta with Crab, Smoked Aubergine Coulis and Croutons'. As he prepared the aubergine coulis, he explained that he liked to smoke the aubergine, placing them in pots lined with woodchips and charcoal, covering them and then letting them absorb the smoky flavours. When added to the dish it provides a nice smoky flavour. He said the croutons were an old recipe of his wife's family which compliment seafood pasta dishes.
By the end of the class, everyone was eager to ask the masterchef questions especially after they tasted samples of the dishes that were created. "Better you ask me now while I'm still here!" he said jokingly.
Once the class was over, I left feeling that there might be hope for me yet - after all if Heinz Beck could do it, I could too...right?