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.
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.
The smell of my own sheets, the touch of the familiar steps , taste of home-cooking and the sound of my turtle doves cooing – I’m home at last after over five months in French hospitals. There’s a short video about my homecoming and a couple of the latest traumas. I had a great welcome with cards, flowers, balloons and all those Christmas presents I’d missed.
Enormous thanks to everyone who gave me the will and strength to get through those life-threatening times: all the medical, nursing, care and physiotherapy teams in France; all of you family, friends and colleagues who have visited and been in touch over the weeks. While the health care was outstanding, it was the words of encouragement, the grasp of a hand, the laughter, the odd tear and the silly sounds shared with all you caring people that got through the coma, overcame the language barriers and made my recovery possible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I’m not out of the woods yet: neck vertebrae still need to consolidate and I still need more physical endurance, balance and stamina to get back to full function but I’m on track. I’m even getting quite a suntan from walking daily in the local park, new muscles from getting in and out of chairs plus confidence to climb stairs. Standing for long is still quite a challenge so my cooking is mainly limited to chopping while I sit – but it is a start! It has been a sheer joy to be in my own shower, find my own clothes and be able to move around independently because I know where everything is – to the millimetre!
But I’m still driven by my desire to fulfil my role as a winner of the international Holman prize funded by San Francisco’s LightHouse organisation: I’ve cooked around the world and now want to share all those experiences, adventures and culinary delights with you.
Already I’m working on all the videos and recipes from the Baking Blind world tour. It is thrilling to relive the fun and delight of all those wildly enthusiastic chefs and the tastes of their fantastic food. Next week you can see the seagrass cake by Luis in San Francisco – new ingredients and techniques by a culinary superstar. So please do subscribe to the Baking Blind YouTube channel and watch the whole adventure unfold …there are more surprises still to come!