Masterful Mediterranean Chefs


The chefs: From top Peskias, Cammerucci, Freixa, Marx and Azhary

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival presented by The Age has certainly thrown the spotlight on the city’s culinary scene. But it has also introduced the work of some fine international chefs to local palates.

Five Mediterranean chefs breezed into town and we had a preview of their skills a cocktail soiree to mark the launch of Masters of the Mediterranean event at the Crown.

The chefs – Christopheros Peskias from Greece, Vincenzo Cammerucci, Italy, Ramon Freixa, Spain, Thierry Marx, France and Mokhtar Azhary, Morocco, who are each being hosted at a Crown restaurant – kicked off their stay by preparing a stunning array of nibbles, sips, and tastes that had guests eagerly seeking more. Sardines wrapped in vine leaves, kooftahs, soya risotto that turned out to be pieces of bean sprout, gazpacho, ginger tea fizz, little olive pyramids… they kept coming.

Next night the famous five prepared the festival’s official gala dinner. This was a glitzy theatrical affair in Studio 3 at Crown. Red lighting (which unfortunately didn’t help my food photography) certainly contributed to the atmosphere.

A catwalk ran the length of the main table and this was used by dancers and later by models wearing fashions by Lettina Liano, Cose Ipanema, J’Aton and Vixen (see below).

Christophoros Peskias presented a selection of canapés to go with the pre-dinner wines – Montview Chardonnay 2003 and Masterpeace Shiraz Sangiovese Rose 2006.

The first entrée (left) was from Cammerucci who produced asparagus wrapped with slender fillets of flounder and served with shaved black truffle and extra virgin olive oil. The wine match was Limbic Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2005.

Freixa followed with warm crayfish served on Ebly wheat with a nugget of ground pork with fish maw and light crayfish broth (right). This came draped with zucchini blossoms and baby zucchinis. This was complemented by Hanging Rock Macedon Brut Cuvee XI and Delatite Riesling 2006.

Thierry Marx came up with a medley of suckling lamb (left). There was a tender lamb cutlet then the most fall-apart piece piece of lamb I’ve had in a long time. These were served with braised baby vegetables, herb oil and lamb jus with a Mt Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz 2004.

Mokhtar Azhary presented a trio of desserts (right) with a flourish – orange and cinnamon salad with rosewater sorbet, fresh ricotta and date flan and a mini Moroccan pastry. This was paired with Rutherglen Tokay.

It was delicious fare and a slickly staged evening, all greeted enthusiastically by the diners.

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