It can be somewhat amazing where our reminders of the past spring up from - and thank you Pat Veltkamp Smith for bringing back the wonderful memories of my days as a young chef in training at the Grand Old Lady of Southern Hospitality - The Grand Hotel.
My mentor, and since I started training, lifelong friend and retired chef Nick Kooij took the time to deliver a copy of his "Grand Hotel" memoirs to us a couple of months ago and it has yet to move from the coffee table alongside my favourite spot on the couch. I find myself continually going through the interesting stories and photographs from both The Southland Times and the Southland Daily News, reminiscing about a bygone era. More so of the great number of young chefs who were in training back in the late 60s, 70s and 80s.
Then (the late 60s) the apprentices were signed up with the Hotel, Hospital, and Restaurant and related trades industrial union of workers, seconded to an establishment for training. The training period was for five years with an additional year on contract for those who, like me, chose to attend tertiary level at Otago Polytechnic - receiving a wage while doing so.
This changed during the early 70s when apprenticeships were offered by the establishments which were registered to train chefs by the HCITB (Hotel Catering Industry Training Board) with the tertiary training on full pay as part of the package.
So strong was the desire back then to train young chefs, the Grand and Kelvin Hotels employed a new apprentice each year. In addition, several other young cooks started as kitchen hands or fourth cooks and worked their way up through the ranks with several of them also attending tertiary as young adults, successfully gaining the same qualifications as did the apprentices.
My weekly wage back when I started training on July 8, 1967 was $12. A fourth cook earned double that. In the early 70s major changes occurred with apprentices' starting rates being the same as that of a fourth cook in an eight-handed kitchen (the more hands in the kitchen the higher the wage rate) and increased going up the ladder one notch each year until they qualified as second cooks.
It was normal back then for the ILT to have 10 or more chefs in training at any one time and the annual trainee chefs' dinner became a big part of Invercargill's dining scene with the last one held at Ascot Park Hotel in 1981 with Scott Murray taking the reins of the kitchen for the day.
They were always a sellout with the trust chairman making an annual presentation to the young chefs.
Many chefs trained at the Grand and Kelvin Hotels have made successful careers, in many corners of the globe as well as here in New Zealand. China, the Maldives, Samoa, Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have all enjoyed the foods prepared by young chefs from Southland. Some are still here in Invercargill, with Ernie Horsman recently operating Duo Restaurant with his wife Fiona, and Paul Casson now chief executive of Venture Southland.
But back to the trainee chefs' dinner, the first of which was held on December 23, 1971, with the young chefs Graham Lindsay (sadly deceased), Frank Simpson, Barry Neilson, John Roff, and Neil McCorkindale (sadly deceased) and with assistance from the Grand Hotel junior cooks Tom Wilson (sadly deceased), Paul Cox and myself.
The menu included Chilled Tomato Cup and Kiwifruit Cup followed by soups Cream of Toheroa and Consomme Dorothee, created and named after chef Kooij's wife.
The fish course was Paupiettes de Sole Marguerite, created and named after chef Nixon's wife, followed by an entree of Beef a la Prince de Marco.
The main fare included baked cider cured ham with pineapple sauce, roast Southland lamb with mint jelly, roast seasoned chicken with a chasseur sauce, round of fillet steak, buttered mushrooms and a tossed salad with all mains served with minted garden peas, boiled new potatoes, buttered spring carrots and deep fried croquette potatoes.
For dessert steamed fruit pudding with brandy sauce, a spiced deep apple pie, fresh cherry pie, Charlotte Rouse Chantilly, fresh strawberries and whipped cream were followed by assorted New Zealand cheeses and a fresh fruit bowl. To complete the evening coffee was served with assorted liqueurs.
I still have the original menu (autographed by all the young chefs on the day) and note inside the front cover: "This menu has been planned and prepared by the trainee chefs of the Invercargill Licensing Trust. We hope and trust you will derive as much pleasure and enjoyment from partaking of this dinner as we have in the preparation.
"We have endeavoured to present not only a menu that appeals and tastes well but we have also tried to cover courses from low to high cost items - in short a well-balanced table d'Hote Menu."
The Grand Old Lady of our industry may look very tired and somewhat neglected these days, but she can rest easy as she has played a major role in the culinary enjoyment of many people, as can retired chef Nick Kooij who has made nothing short of an outstanding contribution to the lives of the many young chefs who trained under him during his 23 years as Chef de cuisine of the Grand Hotel.
This week let's make one of those dishes created 42 years ago by the young chefs of the day.
Lemon sole is an underrated yet abundant locally caught fish. It has a mild flavour and soft flaky texture. Generally a paupiette would be spread with a fish force meat (finely minced fish meat). The paupiette we created was filled with a veloute (rather thick sauce) to which we added some crayfish, and then used the cooking liquor for the smooth sauce.
PAUPIETTES DE SOLE MARGUERITE (6 entrees or 3 main course servings)
For the sole fillets
6 double fillets of lemon sole
200mls chicken stock
24 cooked shrimps (to replace the crayfish
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 cups sauvignon blanc
1 cup water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the sauce
2 Tbsp cream
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan. Add the flour and cook until the roux leaves the side of the pan.
Gradually add the chicken stock and allow to cook between each addition until all the stock has been used.
Allow to cook until thickened and adjust the taste with the seasoning.
Add the chopped parsley and the cooked shrimps.
Allow to cool then place a portion of the mixture on the wide end of each sole fillet. Roll the fillet up and place in a lightly greased oven proof baking dish.
Pour over the sauvignon blanc and water and sprinkle with sea salt and a grind of black pepper. Cover with a lightly greased piece of baking paper.
Place in a pre heated oven at 170 degrees and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the sole is just cooked.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes
Melt the butter into a heavy based saucepan
Add the flour and cook until the roux leaves the side of the pan
Gradually add the cooking liquor from the sole to form a smooth glossy sauce. Add the cream and parsley and adjust the seasoning to taste.
Place the sole on a serving dish and top with the sauce
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.
- The Southland Times