From office to kitchen: The Chef's Experience

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From office to kitchen: The Chef's Experience

The L'Ortolan experience extends beyond the food served in the restaurant. Passion is at the centre of everything here, and the team are more than happy to share their years of skills and experience.

To find out more about how the restaurant works, L'Ortolan Marketing Manager Sally Albin donned her apron and took the plunge in the Chef's Experience.

Sally's Chef's Experience:

"I'm no stranger to a restaurant kitchen but my Chef's Experience at Michelin starred L'Ortolan was a day packed full of new skills and experiences.

If I'm honest I was a bit apprehensive but I was made to feel so welcome by Head Chef, Elliott, and his team. It would be easy to write 5000 words about my day in the L'Ortolan kitchen but here are just the highlights.

Elliott introduced me to everyone and I set to work on my first task of cutting a cauliflower into tiny florets for one of the garnishes. Having successfully completed this I was presented with three enormous Cornish crabs to prepare - a new one on me. After some expert instruction I managed to get every last piece of precious meat out. None of your fancy tools here - the task is completed with a large chef's knife and a teaspoon!

Later on I donned the surgical gloves and set about taking the meat off some braised oxtail. The smell was just heavenly coming from the rich brown stock and I couldn't resist having just a tiny taste .mmm tasted just as good as it looked. Making cooking stock is an art form at L'Ortolan and a good stock will take a couple of days to reduce down to give it the rich depth of flavour needed as a base for the wonderful sauces.

The Chef's Experiencerestaurant Reading Chef de Partie, Chris, showed me how to trim a confit of mallard that he had prepared earlier into an attractive shape. I had a whole tray full to trim and luckily only ruined one as it was so tender it fell apart in my hands.

I was lucky to be in the kitchen on a busy Friday and saw a fantastic selection of dishes being prepared from all the menus - a real treat for me and the two couples on the chef's table that day. Even in the throes of service with a full restaurant the atmosphere was calm and relaxed, so much so that I had a chance to plate some canapés and garnish some plates of Michelin starred food before they left the pass.

The chefs were wonderfully engaging and very willing to take the time to explain what any unusual ingredients were and how they had been prepared - like the spiral of pickled mouli - simply stunning. And, after watching in awe as Jun 'created' a Mille Feuille of Goat's Cheese & Pain d'Epice and Quince Chutney - he then surprised me with my own plate to sample!

I just had the most brilliant day and would recommend it to anyone."

The Chef's Experience restaurant Reading

For more information on the Chef's Experience and other opportunities that the restaurant offers please visit the website.

Photography: Sally Albin (whilst on her Chef's Experience)