For the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee picnic, 12,000 people were invited and a five-course menu was presented which included 62,500 strawberries, 32,000 eggs, 63,823 tomatoes, 1,600 cucumbers and 20,000 lemons. And to wash it down, there were glasses of champagne, beer and elderflower cordial.
Wolfgang Puck who has been catering for A-listers in the last 17 years is once again catering for the luminaries at the annual post-Academy Awards dinner, the Governor’s Ball. Keeping it simple, using seasonal produce and sticking to the traditional dishes, his menu includes smoked salmon and caviar pizza, crab cakes with remoulade, beef burgers with aged cheddar, chicken pot pie and macaroons.
On the local front, when Oprah visited Australia, Curtis Stone cooked an elaborate seafood feast on the golden sands of Hamilton Island while Donna Hay created delectable morsels of finger food for her ‘Welcome to Sydney’ party which included crispy pea and mint risotto balls, and duck and snow pea pancakes.
While most of us in this lifetime will never get the chance to cater for that celebrity, it is worth fantasising – what would you cook for that special someone on the pedestal? Speak to any chef who does this on a regular basis and the advice would be pretty standard – keep it simple or stick to the classics. Imagine if you met George Clooney, your favourite football team or dare I say, Lara Bingle and in that perfect world, you managed to gather some courage and ask them to come home with you for that home-cooked meal (of course, in that similar perfect world, they would say yes). I had an encounter with a celebrity a couple of years ago and did wonder what I would cook if they came home with me.
The golden rule is, keep it simple, fresh and fuss-free. You are not in a reality cooking show, so a chicken need not be cooked three-ways or thrice, herbs need not be micro and desserts need not be multiple layers. Here are some more tips:
1. Avoid fiddly things that would take time – a gingerbread house, an 8-layer cake or a croquembouche is a big no-no unless your name begins with Adriano and ends with Zumbo. A classic bread and butter pudding or rhubarb crumble has similar impact, not to mention half the labour.
2. Avoid a meat-fest if they are a vegetarian – sounds like silly statement but what I am getting at is make sure you know what they are averse or allergic to. It is not fun when you have a guest who is allergic to seafood as you reveal your piece de resistance - a bouillabaisse as the main course. To that extent, always have a recipe handy that is egg-free, gluten-free and nut-free.
3. Do not over-achieve – take a leaf out of Nigella’s book, you don’t have to cook every course. Dessert could be a store-bought wonder from the aforementioned pastry genius. That way, you have less to worry about and more time to fawn over your celebrity guest.
For those who insist on an elaborate meal, I salute you. For us mere mortals, this is a shout out for some suggestions - what would you cook for your idol?
Alvin Quah is a former contestant and blogger for the MasterChef Food Hub and at cinnamonpig.com.au