Rebecca Dettling: Tips from the chef

While my experiences cooking at a golf course have been nothing but exciting and rewarding, my ventures into the culinary world certainly didn’t begin with buffet lines and pub fare. My biggest step into the joys of cooking was through my experience in the fine dining world. The practice of presentation and menu building is equal parts precision and artistic flare.

Beginning with the concept of your menu, you must decide on the number of courses you intend to serve. Most fine dining experiences include a minimum of three courses, but some go above and beyond with five or more.

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Each course should be unique, as well as cohesive with the overall theme of your menu. Flavours throughout your meal should be complimentary, but not repetitive; most ingredients should be used only once within the entirety of your meal. Each dish should offer its own variety of tastes and textures.

Most meals will commence with an appetizer. These plates will introduce your menu to your guest and should be interesting enough to intrigue your diner. Fine dining appetizers should be only a few light bites.

A soup or salad course usually follows; sometimes both! While soups and salads may seem simple, it is important for them to offer the same intriguing combinations of textures and tastes.

Presentation remains key for these courses; even soups are garnished with additional sauces, nuts or mircogreens. A dollop of crème fraiche on a soup or a cucumber wrap for a salad can take this course to the next level. Your diner eats with their eyes first, and beautiful presentation is a key part of the fine dining experience.

The last step before the main course is the entremet. This course is a palate cleanser usually consisting of a sorbet or shaved ice. This before dinner treat is designed to allow the entrée to really shine. Delicate and refreshing flavours such as citrus or champagne paired with bold flavours like raspberry can allow this course to really stand out as something special.

Traditional entrees are not far off from what you may serve at home. A protein, sometimes two, a starch, vegetable, a sauce and a crisp garnish. The seasoning though out this dish should be engaging and complimentary, but what should really tie the dish together is the sauce. Not only does the sauce add an appealing visual dynamic to the presentation, it should tie the dish together and taste delicious with every element on the plate. The use of brightly coloured vegetables, shaped starches, sliced meats and mircogreens can add an elevated flare to an otherwise visually dull dish.

Finally, dessert. Dessert is so vastly versatile that there are almost no rules surrounding it. A composed dessert dish should offer a balance of sweetness, acidity, and richness. There are so many elements, from chocolate to caramel, fruit to nuts, that can offer a supporting role in the finale to your meal.

Many desserts are served in duos and trios in order to display a titillating array of complimentary and contrasting flavours. While flavour is a must in all dishes, colour can be hard to achieve in dessert; fresh fruit or a smear of fruit sauce can be all a dessert needs go from looking drab to beautiful. This is the course in which your personality can really show through. With so many options, your choices for a sweet finish really says a lot about you!

— Rebecca Dettling


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