Crackers at China Live

Top chef Luis turned under-cooked rice and grass from the coast of China in to an amazing fine dining experience (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2E48p7eViU).

You will be as staggered as I by the amount of time (potentially three days), the attention to detail and the amazing interpretation of a beach after a bonfire!  This was Luis’ inspiration in creating the seagrass cracker that was the crowning glory to his delicate dessert with passion fruit cream

And he didn’t stop there but delicately added bubbles of smoke flavour to the plate!  This is where the chef with Michelin experience stands head and shoulders ahead of the home cook.    And even more so when that cook can’t see either.

It was a fabulous dessert and he generously shared both his recipe and the tricks of the trade – check out the video.

I was lucky enough to cook alongside him at the outstanding China Live restaurant in San Francisco’s famous China Town thanks to winning the Holman prize run by the city’s LightHouse organisation for blind people.

 

 

Penny

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Can blind cook survive in professional kitchen?

Imagine the challenge of cooking alongside a Michelin-level chef making eclectic Chinese cuisine from authentic ingredients in an ultra-high-tech kitchen – without any sight at all (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqRx8cGznGs).  Then double the anxiety and stress because everything is being captured on video and it will be your first test of the Baking blind world tour.

Yes, I was very nervous that I’d make a complete mess of the day: bang around the kitchen, drop the ingredients and generally look stupid.  Thank goodness for consummate professional Executive Pastry Chef Luis who not only cooks at the top of his game in the prestigious China Live restaurant  in San Francisco but is also a compelling instructor at the local college.  He chose to show me his seagrass cake with passion fruit cream.  Not only utterly delicious and a fabulous example of fine dining but capable of being translated in to this blind home cook’s repertoire.  If I can do it, anyone can!

I’d never heard of seagrass which comes from the coast of China and is used in place of flour to produce an ultra-light sponge  that is flecked with green and brown.  And the passion fruit powder is definitely on my shopping list to create desserts with real intense flavour – you can find it on the web.    Luis showed me new ways of making the cake and cream – just basic for him but great learning for me.

China Live is in the famous Chinatown area of San Francisco and is not to be missed.  Across five floors, it offers every aspect of Chinese cuisine from the more relaxed café at the entrance to the fine dining and banqueting facilities.  They also sell authentic ingredients and innovative ceramics and equipment.  We lunched on some fried dumplings that were just outstanding.  Big thumbs up.

San Francisco was the starting point of my adventure cooking across six continents  because it is also the base of the LightHouse organisation that created and funded my international Holman prize.  My goal over all the coming video episodes is to show that a shared passion, whether for cooking, work or anything else, breaks down barriers of disability.  I think that you will see that Luis happily treated me like any other semi-competent cook: we just got on with the job in hand because my blindness didn’t matter.

Penny

Letter from America.

Am I going to survive this adventure?  So far, it has been pretty touch and go with about 12 hours of activities every day, still not sleeping much due to the time differences and trying to keep up with all the information and new experiences (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQXRXfOINO8).  But hasn’t it been fun and exciting meeting the Holman prize co-winners Ojok and Ahmet plus all the LightHouse team!  A wild round of meetings, breakfasts, lunches, briefings, trips, video shoots, interviews, catching up on the washing, technical IT training and lots more.

Drama of the first week was Ojok struggling to make his trip from Uganda after passport difficulties but he finally got here four days later and still was an absolute whizz when we visited one of the local bee farms.  He brought samples of his own honey which was completely different: smokey and spicey.

We’ve had lots of San Francisco food and the most odd was being offered a salad of “massaged kale”.  I had visions of Swedish-style cooks giving the reluctant leaves a good rub down in the kitchens so it was a bit disillusioning to hear that all they do is toss the kale in to brine.  But massaging is all the rage and a bit more authentic elsewhere: scrunching up the kale once it has been dressed with oil and vinegar to soften up the stems etc.

I’ve already posted the honey cake recipe I made while Ahmet and Ojok were sailing in the San Francisco Bay – I get too seasick to have joined them.  And there are lots more recipes to come from all the restaurants where I’ve been cooking once we have managed to edit the videos: peach galettes from One Market, seagrass cake and passion fruit mousse from China Live, barbecued shrimp and grits plus fried chicken and waffles from the Brown Sugar Kitchen, a bounty of different sourdough focaccia breads from the Cheeseboard Collective – and you wonder why I don’t sleep much!

My top drama of the week was escaping from a truly awful hotel where I spent the weekend solo and where they didn’t have the slightest idea about disability or accessibility.  I was rescued by Ben (another blind sailor) and Blanche who’d I’d met last Friday.  They welcomed Toby and I in to their Oakland home and have given us a real taste of wonderful, heart-warming American hospitality.   In a city of fast-action, hipster development and energy, there’s still the great friendship and kindness that has given this trip an outstanding start.

Finally, there is still that difference in language (the old potato and tomato “let’s call the whole thing off” song).  I was really taken aback to be called “bad arse” – not quite the done thing in the UK to have one’s posterior the subject of adverse comment – but it seems to be rather more positive here:   tough, competent and relentless!

Thank you to the LightHouse for all of these fabulous images and the experience itself!

 

Penny