I always thought I adequately appreciated the craft of a chef. That was until I was invited to cook with Miami’s top chefs for a day at an Australian Lamb Immersion. After spending a whopping four hours drinking, laughing and cooking with these titans, I could barely stand up straight. #Cheflife is ridiculously arduous, but these Miami chefs are rowdy, alcohol-guzzling warriors who dazzle us with their deft skills and magnificent plates. Come take a peek inside my whirlwind tour as a “”Chef”” for a day.
The Australian Lamb & Beef Immersion was hosted by Meat & Livestock Australia to extol the benefits of meat from the Land Down Under. The continent that has become well known for its delicious wine is about to become just as famous for its succulent cuts of meat. Aussie meat is natural and untainted by chemicals. Their country is about as big as the US, but they have a population of only 23 million, compared with our 317 million. That means, as stated on the Meat & Livestock Australia website: they have an “abundance of pasture land and mild climate, which allow (their) livestock to be entirely grass-fed in a healthy and natural environment. All livestock are free of artificial additives and hormone growth promotant. (They are) pure products of a pure environment.” To put it in relatable US terms: Australian Lamb & Meat = Scarlett Johansson and American Lamb & Meat = Jasmine Tridevil!
The day started in my hood, with a trip to the kitchen at the Miami Marriott in Edgewater (a 10 block “neighborhood” next to the Miami Heat’s arena). Upon entering the banquet kitchen floor, I found Master Butcher Doug Piper carving up an entire lamb to the delightful attention of 15 of South Florida’s top chefs.
By top chefs, we’re are talking about talented culinary experts like (listed in alphabetical order, by restaurant):
- Chef Jason Pringle of DB Modern Bistro
- Chef Conor Hanlon of The Dutch
- Sous Chef Levi Raines of The Dutch
- Chef Aaron Brooks of EDGE Steak
- Sous Chef Jose Gomez of EDGE Steak
- Chef Julie Frans of Essenia
- Chef Joshua Wahler of Estiatorio Milos by Costas Spiliadis
- Chef Tim D’Antuono of Harbour’s Edge
- Chef Todd Erickson of Haven
- Chef Josh Elliott of L’echon Brasserie
- Chef Mike Pirolo of Macchialina
- Chef Sean Brasel of Meat Market
- Chef Thomas Griese of Michael Mina 74
- Chef Timon Balloo of Sugar Cane
The beloved Aussie, Chef Aaron Brooks and his loco tequila-swigging Sous Chef Jose Gomez were right next to the carcass carving station whipping up seemingly endless and sensational lamb dishes for us all to try, while we watched Doug continue to tear apart the lamb, limb from freaking limb. The lamb was tender, juicy and oozing with flavor. I believe we tasted virtually every part from tongue to tail.
After being more stuffed than a Turducken, they decided to feed us lunch!? Most of the chefs found this to be an opportune time to start drinking instead. There was some great convos marinating around the table about restaurant working conditions, depraved contests in Thailand and the smallest kitchen in Miami, which we believe is Harry’s Pizzeria.
After our primarily liquid lunch, we picked numbers out of a hat and were divvied up into teams. I was fortunate enough to be teamed up with the extraordinary talented Chef Thomas Griese of Michael Mina 74 and Chef Joshua Wahler of Estiatorio Milos by Costas Spiliadis. They were surprisingly chill with having me, a kitchen gimp who can not even julienne vegetables properly, as part of their team.
To explain a bit more about the day, check out Chef/Consultant Adam Moore. He was freaking awesome, so funny and chill and curated a diverse and notable collection of beers for us to pound in the kitchen. He even set up little coolers underneath our tables to keep ’em cold while we were slaving away.
There were a total of five teams and each were given a basket of diverse ingredients along with different cuts of scrumptious Australian lamb. Below is a photo of my team’s instructions and ingredient list.
This is where the real fun began for me, because although I do not know how to cook, borrowed an apron (Thank you, Chef Adam) strapped it on and dove right in. Cooking is intense and grueling manual labor. The kitchen is hot, you are on your feet, running around and working incessantly — not at all like the nonchalant freelance journalist lifestyle I am accustomed to. I was slicing, dicing, sprinting to grab ingredients, saucing, plating, gulping beers and grilling lamb. It was a unique and extraordinary experience.
My team ended up making an incredible Molasses Glazed Carpaccio, Fennel Salad, Orange Marmalade.
We also served a Molasses Glazed Leg of Lamb, Orange Marmalade, Bourbon and Cous Cous as well as Purple grits with Pimento.
After we were done in the kitchen, the finished plates were presented al fresco. The chefs and I celebrated our conquest of Aussie lamb by drinking tequila straight from the bottle. The dishes were gorgeous as you can see from the album below. The chefs were able to embrace the versatility of Australian lamb by preparing it in new and interesting ways. There were Asian, Southern, Italian, French and Latin influenced lamb dishes. I unfortunately, did not have enough room to sample everything, but the handful I tried were sensational.
The experience felt like a once-in-a-lifetime blessed event. The opportunity to feel like a real chef and be surrounded by such profoundly talented and fun culinary masters was humbling. It really cultivated a deeper sense of appreciation for the life of a chef, as well as the beauty of Australian lamb.