A Culinary Discovery with Asian Food Channel's Chef Sean Connolly
The Asian Food Channel recently brought Australia's pride Chef Sean Connolly to Singapore to tickle and delight our taste buds with his cuisine. I was fortunate enough to attend his Cooking Demonstration held in Pan Pacific Orchard and I must say that we all had an absolute feast with his creations. Chef Sean Connolly is a well celebrated Chef in his own right. He starred in a number of TV shows - My Family Feast, On the Grill and Under the Grill with the later being the most challenging and exciting program. It was a reality show where he was tasked to open a restaurant in New Zealand in 100 days lead time. He also hold a couple of culinary awards and recognitions under his belt. But beyond all these lies a very charming and down to earth person. In fact, it was notable in the manner how he had run the show for us. While doing the cooking, he was also sharing some personal bits and pieces about his family and his life in general, what a real charmer he was!
He is well known for his expertise on "open flame cooking". Hence, his cooking demonstration featured some tips and insights on this particular cooking technique. His main principle in cooking is to keep it simple yet deliver a rich and indulgent taste. These are the dishes that he prepared for us...
Grilled Garlic Prawns - definitely not just something ordinary. The prawns are so tender and juicy infused with just a subtle taste of butter, shallot, garlic, parsley and Pernod.
Grilled Australian Rib eye with Miso Hollandaise, Fondant Potato and Water Cress - this dish is simply divine! True to what Chef Sean consistently claim that making a steak on bone will give a more juicy taste, this steak is by far one of the juiciest that I have tasted. What's more, it was paired with a perfect hollandaise sauce. The texture and taste of the sauce is just right, it's not overpowering and it did complement the dish nicely.
According to Chef Sean, the best way to cook a steak on bone is medium, not rare neither well done.
Grilled Lamb - I was not able to taste it, but it looked delicious too.
Fresh Berries with Elderflower Jelly and Raspberry Lime Sauce - this dessert won me completely. The fusion of different flavours and taste dimensions such as sweet, salty, sour, creamy, with a good crunchy texture made the dish more appetizing. It truly was perfect for a sweet ending!
Here's my one on one interview with Chef Sean where he gave valuable insights from his culinary journey so far.
Sherra: I heard that you've been running a couple of TV shows for many years now, I want to ask who are the majority of your audience? Is grilling mainly geared towards a male audience or there are a number of females too?
Chef Sean Connolly: I think my main audience is all ladies. But I don't know where it's skewed to at the moment, each show is different. Like My Family Feast that's very much more of a Foodie. Lots of Foodies are watching that because it's very cultural. It's a very gentle and clever show. And then you look at Under the Grill, it was more of a reality show. So it's a real broad base. Everyone is gonna watch it more like a Master Chef. It's that thing where - will it fail, will it not, what's gonna happen next? Then you look at On the Grill now, which is just a real food show, on how I cook. I do cook as far as I'm a bit of a blog but I don't know where my real audience is.
Sherra: There are a lot of cooking techniques - why open flame cooking? What is it that enticed you to focus on it?
Chef Sean Connolly: I like fire. I think you get more flavour from the flames. Cook it up with charcoal, cook it up with woods, there's something special about it. And that's how we started off years ago. I'm talking thousands of years ago when the first man designed fire, they weren't filleting tenderloins when they're on the fire, they were throwing whole carcasses on the fire, whole fish on the fire, and I think that's where our origins lay, it's on the bone cooking. It's got a sweet stickiness to it, and meat tastes better on the bone, fish does too, chicken is the same.
Sherra: Most foodies and gourmands are very particular on how the food should taste like, what are the important flavours and taste generated through open fire cooking?
Chef Sean Connolly: It's the flavour of the woods, the flavour of the coal. And the flavour of the charring of the meat, the caramelization and then also you get the flavour of the bone at the end as well. So it's kind of 3-phases, from what the fire's made up of to how much you colour the meat from the fire and then the flavour of the bone as well.
Sherra: There are a lot of fusions and food innovations happening in the market today, is grilling mainly for savoury dishes? Can it be complemented with sweets as well?
Chef Sean Connolly: I will do grilled pineapples or grilled bananas. Although I don't really do much grilling on that. I think that's the next thing I can look into, that's good. I just do lots of savoury foods but we have done pineapples and bananas in the past, the simple stuff. And it is really about doing simple foods everyday.
Sherra: How do you foresee grilling as the next big thing in the culinary world today?
Chef Sean Connolly: I think it already is the next big thing. Everyone is doing it. At the end of the day, all we look in every ribs grilling is about keeping the flavours and I don't think it's ever gonna go away. I don't know where we are going next but I think the only thing that's happening around is that fine dining is becoming a minority. Brasseries and Bistros are taking over. We call it "Bristonomy"in French name. So the great Chefs are all doing more Bistros. Because it's more accessible and a lot more people are coming to dine.
Sherra: As your parting words for me, can you describe in 3 words what is a good flame grilled taste?
Chef Sean Connolly: You know what, it's just about cooking of the wood, charring of the meat and heating of the bone. These are the things that you want to do, that's the best part of a food direction.
Catch Chef Sean Connolly via these media channels:
You Tube - Sydney Harbour Kitcken
On the Grill - every Wednesday on the Asian Food Channel at 9:30 PM