Victualing for food
There was a lot I didn’t know about my new home town, Deal when I moved here. It was mentioned in the Doomsday Book but it goes further back and some claim this is where Julius Cesar himself is said to have landed on the British shores. The town was a hive of activity for ship builders and it was an important port. Lord Nelson had his affair here with Lady Hamilton and you can still rent the room where they stayed at the Royal Hotel. Situated behind the infamous Goodwin Sands it was a brilliant place for ships to shelter, it was an important port and a key place for victualing before the journey ahead. Today there are 26 pubs but in those days apparently every other building was a pub and well, there were plenty of ladies of the night to entertain workers as well as passing sailors. When walking through the old town I can almost imagine Deal as a BBC period drama, dirty, shaded, drunken sailors looking for a fight and prostitutes in the alley ways.
Deal today is completely different. It is a quaint seaside town with everything going for it. Situated within the commuter belt it offers a unique and relaxing place to live. I love to sit on the beach and throw stones in the water looking out over the sea. I love to walk on the pier and look at France on a clear day. I love the foodie scene and when we first came here for lunch I did some research and one restaurant seemed to come out on top, Victuals & Co.
Located in one of the many alley ways it turned out that it was well worth a visit.
I liked it so much I did write a blog about it, you can read it here. Since moving here I have been back and I have always found it a treat. Vicuals & Co is a place where you are always welcome and when I asked if I could join them for a day to do a blog about what goes on in the kitchen and the running of a restaurant I was so happy they told me that I would be welcome!
I had read about the strict hierarchy in kitchens, despotic head chefs enjoying ridiculing and “testing” new chefs, one was locked in to the cooler storage for 4 hours, one was burnt with a hot spatula across his arm and well, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It turned out that everyone was absolutely lovely and I truly enjoyed my day there and tried to make myself as useful as possible!
I started by baking bread together with Callum, a young chef with a passion for cooking and even more so, baking.
We baked white bread.
Brown bread and soda bread. All bread is baked fresh every day.
The brown bread was flavored with figs
There is a lot going on in a restaurant before opening hours, on the practical side all the glass is polished, the cushions fluffed, today’s special menu written on the blackboard, everything is made ready for the guests.
There is some quirky art, and this picture made me smile.
The kitchen is a hive of activity. Whilst the bread was rising the days food was in full preparation. There was a crab bisque cooking, low and slow to get all those delicious flavors going. A potato dauphinoise was prepared.
Vegetables were chopped, a herb oil done, mini cheesecakes prepared.
The ice cream challenge
I did try to make myself as useful as possible whilst not being in the way at the same time and I was then thrown a challenge! I was thinking oops am being tested by all these foodies! They wanted me to make an ice cream! I have never made ice cream in my life before and chef Derek presented me with all the options and left me to it! I had a look, I smelt my way through what seemed most of their flavors and spices and thought about it. Finally I settled on what thought might be a good combination but I did think to myself that this will either be good or a disaster and I will have wasted good milk, cream and eggs! Without hesitating any further I made the ice cream base, I was happy to say that it was like making a custard so it was sort of familiar ground. Once this was done I started on the ingredients I had picked, schezchuan peppercorns and bergamot extract. I love Earl Grey tea and the pronounced bergamot flavor. I toasted the peppercorns, ground them and added bergamot. It came out quite nice but I did think it needed to be served with a plum jam and Earl Grey jelly. When I was done with adding the flavors everyone gathered around with a spoon to have a taste. There was a very quiet moment where I was sure they would hate it! Finally they all smiled and I knew it was good. The plum was still missing and it was suggested that I add some to the ice cream. There was a delicious Japanese plum that I added and voila, that was the final touch and a new ice cream was created! I was so happy and it turned out that they were even happier and it went on the menu that night! That made me walk a little taller!
Pakora batter being made.
The brandy in the crab bisque was burnt off in the kitchen.
During busy hours everything steps up a few notches, all the stations are manned and you can feel the change in the atmosphere, making it almost electric, there is certainly lots of energy.
Chef Derek was busy cooking and plating, no efforts too small and no detail overlooked.
A delicious amuse bouche
This night they had a delicious duck served with rice, veg and curry sauce.
The pork dish looked very inviting
All the stations were manned and the desserts (including my ice cream) looked mouthwatering!
I can confirm that the raspberry souffle was light as a feather and it made me feel slightly sad when I had eaten it all and I could have eaten a smidge more perhaps.
It was so nice to be able to spend the day in the restaurant and even nice to be able to actually help out, even if only a little. The amount of work that goes in to a meal before it ends up as a dish on the table is carefully planned, prepared and cooked by a whole team. The other part of the team is there to make sure you feel welcome and to take care of you, making your restaurant visit an experience. Thank you team Victuals & Co for having me!