Sunday, May 22, 2005

Victory Day for the Russians and one for us

Who could wish for a better time to be in Moscow than on the Victory Day weekend?

27 million Russians died in WW2 and Victory Day celebrates the end of this lunatic period in history. But Russians also love to celebrate life and so Benjamin Christie and I were in Moscow adding flavour to the Australia Week events organised by Gregory Klumov and his hard-working team at Austrade, Moscow. See Benjamin's blog for more info on the Australia Week event.

We also met and talked with one of Vladimir Putin's guests, none other than our own Governor General.

We started the week of the food promotion with a gala cocktail event which showered as many complements on us as there were fireworks which lit up the city the night before.

I'll always remember the feedback of "That food was at a very high level"; "Great flavours, really interesting food"; and "Everybody's talking about the food"; or "I loved the noodles with quandong and the seafood sausages, in fact everything was great"; then, "The desserts were incredible" and literally, a smorgasbord more.

Oz lemon monkfish cooked in paperbark

Chocolate and pepermint mousse
Belgian chocolate and Australian peppermint mousse

It's totally satisfying when over 450 people get what we worked hard to accomplish - a menu which can only be Australian cuisine because of the unique ingredients which made it so. And today, both Benjamin and myself were really chuffed when we learned that were acknowledged in Moscow in the speech by the Governor General, His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery when he said:

"I also hope you will sample some of the magnificent Australian cuisine ... available in this (The Radisson SAS) hotel’s Talavera Restaurant during the Australian Food and Wine Week. Two of Australia’s finest chefs (Vic Cherikoff and Benjamin Christie) have come to Moscow to prepare a selection of dishes using Australian ingredients that are renowned for their quality, taste and purity."

Isn't it ironic that the interest in our native foods predominantly comes from Europe, Asia and the Americas and not from our con-fusion chefs back home? Isn't it embarrassing to fly Qantas and be served food which would be more at home on Alitalia or Singapore Airlines?

The GG went on to refer to the wisdom of the Russian proverb which says “it is not the horse that draws the cart, but the oats.”

And I think that perhaps it will not be the food media personalities, the PR or celebrity chefs who create Australian cuisine but the quality, taste and purity of our once wild ingredients which are quintessentially Australian. It will come from those creative, newly trained chefs just out of college or chauvinistic cooks who do the hard yards, both groups of chefs who feel Australian, are proud to be Australian and do not pretend or feel the need to be MediterrAsian.

Victory Day in Moscow, for me at least, also reflected a victory of another kind.

It has been a battle, maybe even a war but there is a new beginning as Cherikoff Rare Spices inspire creative chefs, event guests and organisers and even the Governor General.

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