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Taste Test: Private chef makes our day with scallops, steaks and soufflé

Posted on - 7th May, 2021 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Food & Drink, Opinion, Preston News
Bernard Hoti
Bernard Hoti has seven years experience as a head chef

Like many others in the hard-hit hospitality industry, a Preston-based entrepreneur is restarting his business now that lockdown is easing. 

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Bernard Hoti kindly offered Blog Preston the opportunity to experience his Private Chef service, so I invited my mother Yvonne and my father Dry Tony to join me as a “thank you” for not abandoning me in a marsh to be raised by grouse even though I could tell they thought about it.

It was a little awkward at first as the polite thing to do when someone comes to your kitchen is to tell them to sit down and offer them food, and the opposite is required in this instance. There was also a moment of panic when I showed him around my kitchen and tried to hide a box of instant noodles under a tea towel, but thankfully Bernard was occupied unpacking the prepped ingredients, pans and plates.  

Yvonne was hovering anxiously as she gets territorial around a spatula, and I was unsure whether I should talk to Bernard or just clear off and leave him to it. After a dither I chose the latter option as Yvonne was vibrating with the need to stir stuff and I had to herd her away before she threw a handful of sultanas into something.

Meanwhile, Dry Tony was just chilling on the sofa, waiting for something fabulous to float out of the kitchen. 53 years of dedicated training allowed him to breeze right through it.

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The first course was artfully plated scallops with roasted turnip, pea and mint puree, crispy chorizo and sage.

Scallops, chorizo and roasted turnip
Scallops, chorizo and roasted turnip

The scallops were soft and perfectly cooked with the turnips and chorizo complimenting them beautifully, and the fried sage was such a revelation that from now on all my sage will be fried. Sorry heart, blame Bernard.

The next course was medium-rare fillet steak on a potato cake, accompanied by salt baked swede, carrot puree, romanesco, crispy parsnips, baby cress and veal jus. 

Fillet steak
The fillet steak was cooked perfectly

I find that a tough steak is like a visit from a drunken uncle; great at first but quickly becoming an unwelcome lump of grey that just will not bugger off. Dry Tony isn’t a fan of steak either, due to the effort:satisfaction ratio, meaning that any meat requiring twenty chews before you can swallow it needs to be impressive.

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Even my dad agreed that the steak was incredible. Cooked through but still pink, and so easily cut that Bernard could have saved on washing up by doing away with the forks and steak knives and giving us three sporks instead. It had a good steaky taste that can sometimes be lacking in a lean beef fillet, and was given a huge kick of extra oomph by the veal jus. The potato cake and other accompaniments were also impeccably cooked and presented, but were outshone by the steak and jus to such an extent that they probably wished it would go and sit on a different plate.  

For dessert Bernard made a strawberry souffle served with vanilla ice cream.

Souffle
It was clear that the ice cream was hurt but the souffle just stood by watching dispassionately

That was the only time he used my oven, which in a panic I’d had professionally cleaned a few days earlier. (Thank you, “Little Elfers,” you did a spectacular job and I’m sorry that you had to bring Armageddon to a self-sustaining ecosystem.)

The soufflés were classy clouds of hot strawberry meringue, fluffed up to the nines and tasting as good as they looked, even though a member of that group ended its evening slumming it in one of my mugs, but that was no fault of the chef’s.

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Once the meal was over Bernard cleaned up, packed his gear away and answered a few of our questions. First, where did you find that steak? The answer is good news for Prestonian steak lovers; he’d bought it from Livesey’s Butchers in Preston Markets. In fact, the majority of ingredients he used were bought from the market, and they all wiped the floor with the produce from most supermarkets. 

The only thing I would have changed with the food was the amount of pea puree on the starter and carrot puree on the main. I found that whilst being visually stunning, they slightly overpowered the other ingredients, which were so well balanced and interesting that the purees could have been done away with altogether.

What stood out was the quality and presentation of the ingredients, the technical expertise needed to make them into something fabulous, and the effort and passion that went into creating the entire meal. 

Bernard was professional so it was easy to trust him to get on with it. If I was to give advice to anyone considering hiring Bernard for an event it would simply be: Tell him which ingredients are a definite “no-no”, let him take over your kitchen, go and sit with your guests and trust him to create something amazing for you.

You can follow Bernard on Instagram @passion_twistfood.

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