Perfecting the product

You have to get out of the house and do something every day or you’ll go mad. My way of keeping my motivation was to make sure I did one of five things every day; Meet a contact in the industry, look at new markets/cafes, take on one element of the operational set up, meet a friend for lunch and get their thoughts or do a tasting.

Now that I knew the type of market I was looking at, I needed to get cracking (sorry) on the actual product. Everyone in the markets will tell you that if you want to succeed, it’s all about the product – it needs to be high quality and consistently good. That may seem obvious but I think it’s worth mentioning as you need to keep it at the forefront of your mind. Also, to make the most out of your market application you need to have a pretty good idea of your menu and photos to back it up, so I spent the next few weeks concentrating on creating a brilliant product.

Cracking egg2

I read countless reviews and recipes from chefs all over the world and well known food bloggers. It turns out there are many, many different opinions on how to make the ‘best omelette’. The one thing they all have in common is that they use an omelette as a skill test when hiring potential chefs and if they can cook a good one, chances are they have good cookery skills. Omelettes are definitely an art form but the great thing about them is that once mastered, they become simple and can be cooked to perfection again and again.

Mastering them comes down to countless different variants – the type of heat you use, the type of pan, the temperature of the pan, the amount of eggs, how you beat them, what you use as a base for the eggs, whether to use milk/water and I could go on and on. I was actually pretty excited about this because it meant I could create my own version of a gourmet omelette. I spent days cooking omelettes without any filling testing every different type of blend until I came up with my own combination I was happy to stand over.

Then came the ingredients. I’ve had loads of omelettes in cafes and restaurants which were nice enough but I always felt the same about them – too thick and filled with boring ingredients whose combinations weren’t thought through. I really felt I needed to do something different. Firstly, the egg base needed to be the right thickness and cooked to the same consistency each time. Secondly, the ingredients needed to stand out. There’s nothing wrong with a tried and tested classic version and I did plan to have that on my menu but the rest of the fillings needed to be gourmet, unique to my omelettes and foods that people loved. I found there were some ingredients you might never think of adding to an omelette but tasted surprisingly good – this is where the versatility of eggs adds so much. After looking at dozens of different foodie sites, I had about 10 different ideas I wanted to try out for omelettes and others for frittatas. I had tried some here and there which were ruled out for one reason or another and some that didn’t work in an omelette but were really good in a frittata and vice versa. The difference between an omelette and a frittata is in the thickness of the base and the way you cook it. A frittata is like a Spanish omelette but called a frittata because you can use whatever ingredients you like whereas a Spanish omelette is confined to the same ingredients. I’ll talk more about frittatas later. Time to get cooking those omelettes!

Spencer was the first of my guinea pigs so I spent a morning prepping all the ingredients for his tasting. Since I was busy making them I didn’t notice he had eaten all of the first two omelettes and was now full! I’m not sure he realised what I had planned for him! The smoked salmon and cream cheese was the first one we both agreed was gorgeous and it set the bar for the others which was a really good thing as I now had to make sure they all tasted that good. Spencer’s not a cheese lover (except on pizza) but I served up an avocado and feta thinking I’d get away with it as sometimes he doesn’t notice. I was wrong. He spit the whole thing out and thought I was trying to poison him. I had to make the call on that one myself – really good but lacking something which I’d experiment with later. I managed to get him to taste seven more but he had to take to the couch for a few hours afterwards and he went off omelettes for a couple of weeks that day.

Next up were Tara and Ailionora, quite the brunch goers and not afraid of experimenting with food. They are the reason there is now chilli in the avocado and feta omelette which is something I wouldn’t have thought of but works great.

For one of the tastings I had my immediate family and my cousin and her boyfriend over who try to live by the paleo diet. I wanted to include a paleo option and had tested a few but had never felt any of them hit the spot. My mum didn’t quite get it and kept asking ‘who is paleo’? After a few more versions, we tried simplifying it and Popeye’s paleo was born – an omelette with bacon and spinach. I learnt the key to good spinach is to heavily season it when cooking as it brings out the flavour. I was also trying out an omelette with guacamole which sounds like it would be nice but there was something not right quite about it – eventually we decided it was the heat of the omelette and although avocado is really good – ‘hot guac’ is actually a bit gross.

The same friend who did that mortifying survey with me came over with her boyfriend for a tasting. She is half French and in true French style knows a lot about cheese so we went through a few different options with the likes of Gruyere, Gouda etc. It turns out that strong cheeses like that don’t really add anything to the omelettes and you’re better off sticking to cheeses like feta, cheddar and mozzarella. I also tried using duck eggs in a few of the omelettes as they are creamier and a bit bigger so would fatten the omelette up a bit. We didn’t notice the difference in taste but this is something I may add a later date.

In total, there was about eight tastings with different people over the course of the two weeks with people who I knew would be really honest. I got them to record all their comments on the same sheet so I could compare the opinions and chat about what needed to be added etc. I’m lucky enough to know a couple of chefs/restaurant owners who partook in tastings for me and who suggested additions only chefs could. One of them was a friend who runs Bread & Bones restaurant on the Millennium walkway and I spent a morning cooking there for the staff.

All the tastings were unbelievably beneficial and really contributed to the final version of my menu which I was absolutely delighted with and I can honestly say I’ve never seen omelettes like these.

Now, all I need to do is find a location and begin the setup!

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