The Cook and The Chef

Friday started a lot earlier than it usually does for me - and finished quite a lot later. It was an exciting day for me, filled with great food and superb people. It started with a breakfast with Maggie Beer, carried on with a lunch with Tanja and Mars, afterwork drinks to farewell Jimmy from work, and finished with dinner at Vue de Monde - here's a little about the beginning and the end of my Friday.

Maggie Beer

I was so nervous I'd miss out on this event, I booked my seat for a breakfast with Maggie Beer months ago. There aren't many people I'd get up at the crack of dawn for, but for Ms Beer, I was in town and ready to go at 7am. That paid off too, I had a seat a mere few tables from the podium and I hung on every word of my latest crush.

It took a while for me to associate the delicious Pheasant Farm pate I loved to eat with the affable cook in the television series The Chef and The Cook but once I did, I was hooked on both.

As well charming and capable as Maggie comes across on her show, what hadn't translated as clearly to me was her energy. I could almost hear the hum of it from where I was sitting, she was radiating the spirit that powers her through her days and fuels all the projects she's involved in. A self-confessed mirco-manager, tempered with her love of learning, her fingers are literally in all the pies. Her number one rule is quality - she refuses to compromise on that point at all - which means products such as her ice cream range too five years to get good enough to get to market.

Maggie says she gets her energy from making ideas tangible. Given the Beer household has "an idea a day" that's plenty of energy to stoke her creative fires.

I haven't met many successful, interesting people who have had a straight path from A to B to C and Maggie is no exception. Her path is more like A to 7 to quinces! She shares my philosophy of surrounding herself with people who are intelligent and have the right attitude - skills can always be taught or learned or created - having the 'right people' is the toughest part of any relationship including hiring staff. Maggie also said she had learned that she can't hire people like herself - she needs people who compliment her, and fit into her teams and who are able to stand up to her and push back.

A beautiful, wise, talented, optimistic woman - my crush on Maggie Beer has officially been upgraded.

Vue de Monde

view of the kitchen from our table at Vue de Monde

Vue de Monde kitchen in full swing

Our dear friends Bart and Kelly live in KL, Malaysia. From time to time they can pick up reasonable tickets back to their home-base of Melbourne so we have the pleasure of catching up several times since they left last year. This weekend it was also Fox's birthday - so what better excuse to go out for a special meal together and what better place than Vue de Monde, Melbourne.

I was greated and escorted to our table by a charming hostess who must've known about my talent for miss-reading steps as she pointed each and every change in the floor elevation on the way to our table - I was extremely grateful.

I'd completely forgotten we'd booked the Chef's Table and I was happy to realise how great the spot was over a glass of champagne. It was wonderful to watch Shannon Bennett's team prep, cook and plate for the restaurant, though Chef himself didn't make an appearance, his restaurant was run by the extremely capable - if not relatively young looking - team of chefs.

Fox and Willo were already seated, and Bart and Kelly arrived not long after I did for a dining start of 7:30pm. Kevin, our host, welcomed us to Vue de Monde (VDM), and described our dining options, including costs - which I appreciated. We didn't even have to agree on anything, each of our meals would be tailored. He wanted to know if we had any food preferences or allergies. Willo and I eat all fish all foul, all beasts of the earth, and everything they feed on too not to mention every grape and grain-based substance in their cellar - so we're easy it's ridiculous. Fox prefers not to eat red meat but doesn't mind fish and seafood, and prefers red wine. Bart and Kelly prefers easy on the seafood and heavy on the meat, with a preference to white wines over red - and all that was not only okay with VDM - we even got a copy of our menu emailed to us the next day! so we'd know! what we'd eaten! (a very, very nice touch).

First things first though, I needed to wash my hands - and that wasn't a euphemism for anything, I really needed to wash my hands after being out in the world and using public transport. I asked Kevin my first 'non-food related' question of the evening and he walked me towards the bathrooms. Now I'm not dreaming here - because this happened each time I went to the bathroom during the evening, and please excuse me if this just shows me up at the country bumpkin I really am but - as I was escorted through the restaurant towards the bathroom, each and every member of staff I passed turned and faced me so they wouldn't have their backs to me as I walked by. There, and back. And each time. It was like a dance, like a ballet - and it was just wonderful!

Now I completely lost count of how many dishes we ate, or what they were (although a couple stood out) or what the wines where (we had matching wines with each dish) but I do remember how gracious our hosts and the chefs were. They were happy to share how the dishes were made and the ingredients, sometimes asking us to chance a guess. They also answered my 'non-food related' questions (I had more than the one about the bathroom) and had the right touch of familiarity and professionality. A real pleasure.

I'm positive Bart will be much better at writing about our experience so please check his blog and see what he has to say about the evening.

We finished off the night with a tour of the kitchen from one of the chefs - his name was Brendan. Kevin invited us to pose for photos at the serving station, and some of the other chefs gathered in for the photo including Charlie, one of the chefs we'd taken a particular liking to.

brioche and honey breakfast from Vue de Monde

Vue de Monde breakfast treats

It was a fair bit later than I expected it to be by the time we left. As we left, we were each gifted with a brown bag with breakfast fixings - homemade granola, a small loaf of brioche, fragent tea mix and a jar of honey - which I happily consumed with a cafe latte the next morning.

Vue de Monde was an amazing indulgence. The Chef's Table is a fantastic choice if you have up to six guests. Budget for between $600 and $1000 per head and leave a decent tip - the chefs, dishies and waiting staff deserve every penny. Oh yeh, and the food is exceptional!

Bart and Kelly at the Vue de Monde kitchen

Bart and Kelly

Battle-worn kitchen hands and chefs graciously pose for our Chefs Table

Vue De Monde magicians and (what's left of) the Chef's Table