I was asked to go over to Tenerife to do some consultancy for a company called Venture, and specifically one of their restaurants called Empire which is a modern British steakhouse in down town Playa las Americas.
This is the first time I’ve been asked to help a restaurant in this way and was a little nervous about it. After eating some of the “problem dishes” and getting the chef out to talk about them… seeing him walk off after I was halfway through discussing the second of 5 didn’t fill me with confidence!
The owner then (quite cleverly) sat me, the general manager and head chef down together to talk about what he wanted from me this week. I think this really helped get Ian (head chef) onside because it showed the instructions I had came from the top and not just me being a dick. I think if I was him I would of felt the same with a random chef walkin into my kitchen tell me my dishes needed changing!
The first night I watched Ian smashing out 280 covers (a Monday night!) and made a few notes on the things a saw leaving the pass, my main reactions were wow! the kitchen made 280 look pretty easy and I have never worked anywhere that does that many on a Monday night or even a Saturday night!
Day two and me and the manager went to eat lunch in restaurant 88 which is a beautiful Japanese restaurant in the group. Its situated in a cove looking over the sea in a place called la Caleta which isn’t far from Las Americas but feels like another island, very peaceful and calm.
We ate some beautiful sashmi to start, bream, seabass, tuna and some scallops. then we had a portion of butterfish which was new to me and was very creamy in its texture sat on top of rice with a sticky soy syrup. We had tempura prawns (we asked for squid in fact but we both like prawns so ignored this small error and we finished our meal with a seabass cooked in a citrus dressing and white radish for a nice crunch and a sticky plum duck all with a nice bowl of rice. Couldn’t ask for more on my second morning before work!
At the restaurant I sat down with the head chef and tried to get on his level, I complimented his service last night and then explained what I wanted from this week. My aim was to make the food look more modern because I felt it was a little dated on some dishes and these would be quite easy fixes that we can do straight away. Other things we can look at together because I have some ideas to improve service but because I don’t have the experience of doing this many covers some suggestions may not work but I hope to be able to make service simpler and the food look and taste better. Ian was really receptive and after showing him some simple changes to how he plates a few dishes he went on to execute them perfectly throughout another busy service and I was very happy with the results.
Day three, went for lunch at the newest restaurant in the group called Legarto. This is a beautiful looking restaurant, everything is very new and sexy including the kitchen which along with a view of the sea is certainly a lovely place to work! We had Wagyu beef black pudding, mushrooms and burrata on toast to start (yes this is what was worded on the menu, I dont think Wagyu black pudding is a thing…) it all lacked a bit of seasoning which was a shame and was also a very big starter. We shared a carpaccio of Txogitxu beef, which if you don’t know is a very fine breed of Spanish cow from Galicia. The beef was superb but quite over salted with Maldon so big flakes of salt hampered our taste buds. Starters didn’t quite match up to the amazing setting we were sat in, mains next and I had pork cheeks and truffle mash, Scott had the truffle burger which came with chipotle bbq sauce which I though sounded like a strange combo and it turned out I was right to be worried. My pork cheeks were nice but not quite shown enough love in the cooking and didn’t melt as I was so hoping for. The truffle mash I was hoping for decadence and luxury but they fell short with a very small amount of shaved truffle on top and more enough butter to make them feel special. I left feeling like I wanted to get into that kitchen next!
Back at empire I got into the kitchen and made a start at fixing one of the worst dishes of a chicken fritter (super dry) with a green mess of avocado coleslaw underneath. First I made a new lighter coleslaw dressed with lemon oil, and an avocado and mint mousse which we served underneath the coleslaw so its a surprise on the plate. We put crushed peas underneath the fritter and the coleslaw and mousse next to it. Some simple changes but it looked really effective. I must say I’ve never sweated as much in a kitchen as I did today! We also looked at the pork shoulder which gets cooked slow all night then pressed into a cylindrical shape and then heated up on the plancha in the shape of a hockey puck. It gets served with pork loin which is tender and delicious but to serve it with the shoulder as they were just didn’t work for me because the shoulder was drier than the loin! My idea was to turn that shoulder into a sticky bbq, pulled pork mess. Ian made a really nice bbq sauce and then we mixed the meat taking away the dry hockey puck and sandwiching the sticky meat between two thin slices of white radish on the plate. The dish to me also lacked some vegetable so we added a quarter of a char grilled baby gem which looked great on the plate.
Day four, went for lunch in a new place on the island called ID, really good food and so much so I will write my first review on my site about it in the next few days because its just too much to write here and not fair to ignore it!
so after lunch we were supposed to have a meeting but it ended up getting cancelled so we ended up getting to work a bit later which didn’t leave too much chance for me to prepare anything new for this service but I did spend the night looking at the stater section and made another small change but which had a great effect on the pork terrine. They were cutting a slice then cutting that into two triangles and serving with salad and piccalilli. I suggested we serve the terrine as a rectangle on the plate with puffed pigs skin and herbs on the top for a garnish adding a great crunch but leaving the rest of the garnish as it was. Same thing with the fishcakes instead of serving two smaller cakes i changed it to one larger one which just looks more modern some how and a nice sprig of dill with the tartar sauce. After another 200 person service it was time for a beer, food all went out looking really nice and Ian was really enjoying the changes too.
Last day and we went to Dedos (fingers in spanish) which is the companies take on something like a fast food place but with freshly made food all on the premises. Me and Scott both has chicken burgers which were delicious and chicken nuggets with some chilli fries on the side! All really good, only let down was the dessert of warm cookies and ice cream…cookie wasn’t warm and just tasted a little old instead of a gooey fresh one just out the oven. This was the cheapest meal of the week so we didn’t feel hard done by.
At work we had a sit down with the owner and Ian to talk about how the week had gone and to discuss what changes I had implemented. Ian said he had really enjoyed it which made me feel really happy because the start of the week we didn’t exactly hit it off. He said the small changes were some of the biggest by making the food look more up to date. The owner was also very happy and actually asked if I could extend my trip for a few more days, I was flattered he had asked but told him I must return to my heavily pregnant wife but I would love to come back at some point in the near future to carry on what was started this week.
Over all I’ve had a really good week, using my knowledge to help a big and busy steakhouse improve their offering and teach the chef a few new things which he seems to have really grasped. I hope I’ve inspired him a little because its hard when your the head chef in the same place for a long time to re-ignite your passion you once had.
I tried a new version of the chicken fritter tonight and it was much improved and we also made a new relish for the burger just to liven it up a little and I think it really looked good.
So that’s my week and now as I write this sat at the back of the restaurant watching the waiters and waitresses clean down and serve the last few customers I feel very ready for a beer or two knowing I’ve got no work tomorrow!