It seemed only right to name my first pop-up after (at the time) my favourite ingredient. It was something I had used on MasterChef and an ingredient I began introducing into many of my dishes for different purposes.
A citrus fruit cultivated most commonly by Japan and Korea, the yuzu urged me onto the road of fusion and East Asian cuisine - here I have found myself wandering ever since. With new ingredients hurling themselves at me from every avenue I can no longer return to classic cooking, I can no longer let my recipes be fettered by the ingredients that we so comfortably know and love in the west. Throughout these posts I will feature many more of my favourite ingredients. For now - the yuzu.
The flavour profile of the yuzu certainly isn't dull. Its untamed citrus resembles grapefruit as does its appearance, whilst the hints of orange soften the fruits sourness. Try using it to replace lime or lemon - or, like me, vac pack your bananas in yuzu juice!
Here's my Banana & Yuzu dish!
So... the event.
I'm no stranger to designing menus, hours of MEP or stock ordering - so what could be so hard about a 3 day event with only 8 guests each evening? Well, anything can happen at an event. You learn things that working in a restaurant could never prepare you for.
Now, I can get a little pre-event anxiety at the best of times, but when ingredients failed to arrive the day before the event, the panic was rising. I had spent too many hours planning and there were too many ‘so, it's definitely going to be here tomorrow?’ texts to my suppliers for this to happen. The first morning of prep was spent mainly circling a kitchen no bigger than my bathroom - limping off my agonising jitters. Layered in jumpers, aprons, chef whites and cardigans to evade the bitter cold of the arctic kitchen, I finally began to cook.
My meticulous preparation list was slowly being ticked off and now I had the opportunity to worry about some other things, like what am I going to serve my food on? My boyfriend had opted for the challenge of managing all things front of house - drinks pairings, preparing everything for set up and mining for those all important dishes, plates and bowls. I was sharing all crockery and glassware with my previous boss from The Wilderness who was responsible for giving me the amazing opportunity in the first place (and so in turn, I guess, responsible for each mini heart attack), this meant we were limited. However, persistence prevailed and on the day of the first event things fell into place... kind of.
The first night was without a doubt the toughest. It was the first time I had been completely in charge of something like this and I had given myself plenty to do with my designed menu. Being presented only a domestic kitchen to use in service was no longer a dilemma on the forefront of my list of worries. I'D FORGOTTEN TO VACUUM PACK THE BANANAS IN YUZU! The dish that people were waiting to try. The dish that I was most proud of as one of my biggest accomplishments. How could I have forgotten? I smothered the sealed bananas in yuzu juice, and left them in the fridge until service and hoped for the best - it's all I could do.
The dessert turned out to be a big success and with each evening things improved and I made less mistakes. I became more comfortable and enjoyed each night more than the last, leaving my irrational fears behind. I was lucky to have such a supportive team from my previous work place 'The Wilderness', such a beautiful venue at the Rotunda Penthouse Suite, an incredible team helping out and such splendid guests with us each evening. The journey to becoming a private chef had begun, the overwhelming sense of achievement I felt after this event was already eating away at me and screaming "What's next?".
Advice to anybody taking the leap into their first pop-up?
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!