NextGen chef Adrian Soriano’s learns from Michael Meredith
2017 NextGen Chef Adrian Soriano writes about this mentoring experience with Michael Meredith from Merediths.
Day 1 The first day I arrived at Merediths it was around 4pm. The first day was all about getting familiar with the kitchen and the menu but I was quickly put into the back to work with Chef Julian and Chef Ben. The first thing they had me doing was preparing some of the pear cones for the feijoa dessert. It was hard to learn everything at once and work at such a fast pace but I started to get comfortable and everything started working naturally. It was awesome working in a team such as Merediths because it was a combination of fast pace and excellent quality of food. Being my first night of service I was asking questions always making sure everything that I was doing was right and making sure to observe and absorb everything I see.
Day 2 I arrived at Merediths at 8:30 am and started doing some prep with Chef Michael. On this day, he was doing some filming for Air NZ so most of this prep was for Air NZ. First, he had me picking some herbs, straight after that I was deep frying some beef tendons and then cleaning some of Cloudy Bay clams he ordered for that night’s service.
Day 3 Chef Michael picked me up from my accommodation in the morning and we headed west an hour out of Auckland around Kumeu to go to a local micro herb/ flowers supplier that he has been going to for the past 8 years. This place was filled with seasonal herbs and flowers. It is a family owned business and the man who owned the place was an ex chef who decided to get into the micro herb business. It was a unique experience because there were so many herbs that I had never heard of and I was able to learn through asking questions and tasting the different flavours. It also shows that Chef Michael would go out of his way to pick fresh produce and he has good relationships with local producers which is hard to find nowadays.
Back at the restaurant we did some prep for dinner service. Wednesday nights are “dine by donation” which meant that most of the proceeds go towards a charity that Chef Michael has chosen.
Day 4 On my second to last evening Chef Michael asked me to work on the pass. There I learned some of the main dishes which included ox tongue, duck, quail, eel, scampi, and kingfish. It was a great experience to work on the pass and to work with new ingredients that I have never used and it opened my eyes to more flavour combinations that work well with each other. Not only were the dishes being made at such a quick pace but they were also beautifully made with a simple but elegant look to it.
Day 5 My last day at Merediths we had a very busy function for lunch and I was asked to come in at 10am that day. For morning prep, we had a 5-course meal which included beef tartare, kingfish, quail, ox, and feijoa dessert. It was super busy because we also had to prepare for dinner service. Straight after most of the prep was done for dinner service Chef Michael told me to have the night off and go out and try a Filipino restaurant he recommended.
Overall my experience at Merediths was inspiring and motivating. It has opened my eyes to a lot more from methods and techniques on how they maximise the ingredients to their full potential. Also, by combining texture, flavour and presentation you can create a dish that can create an experience for the customer. But one comment that Chef Michael told me that really opened my eyes was, “Simplicity is key, but make sure that flavours flow”. I realised that being complicated is not always a good thing but sticking with the fundamentals and basics can work as well as being complex.