Executive Chef Garry Hughes talked to us about his inspiration behind the exclusive menu and the challenges involved in delivering the best food for 340 people at the FOOD AND WINE Awards 2019 in association with Rémy Martin.
For the 19th edition, the FOOD AND WINE Awards are turning the focus back on where it all began – The Shelbourne, Dublin. Executive Head Chef Garry Hughes and his team have been preparing a spectacular meal for attendees this year, raising the bar to make it a gala occasion for all.
While he went for a classic menu, with salmon and beef, the chef made sure to stay true to the spirit of the establishment. “The original brief was ‘Sunday at the Shelbourne’, so I wanted to do what we do best in the hotel,'' he says. “We are famous for our own smoked salmon, so I had to bring it to the menu.” To give it a seasonal twist, Garry decided to infuse it with elderflower. “The salmon is completely immersed for up to 16 hours”, he says. The result is “quite unusual, quite sweet” and served with the buttermilk foam and pickled fennel. “It’s a nice light starter to kick off the event.”
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As for the main course, the chef hasn’t gone the easy route and will serve the 340 guests a Beef Wellington. “All my chefs think it’s mad to try and deliver a Beef Wellington for some of the best chefs in the country and in the world, but I’m fairly confident in what we can do,'' he says. They will be using Aged Black Angus beef, which Garry believes is the best on the market. “The process of getting the Wellington to the table on Sunday has actually started a couple of weeks ago,'' he reveals. “On Thursday, Friday, Saturday I have six chefs assigned to do the Beef Wellingtons alone.” In total, fifty Wellingtons will be made. For the chef and his team, there will be no room for improvisation. “The trick is the two temperatures we cook it at and then the resting time”. As for the side, it will be a Pomme Anna. Made of multiple layers of potato cooked in a lot of butter, this represents a considerable amount of work for the team. “But they are all quite excited, it’s great to see that they are all putting their hands up and want to work extra for the event on Sunday.”
The guests will then enjoy a Taste of Caramel, made with Valrhona caramel mousse, hazelnut bavirous, chocolate mousse, caramel glaze, and a sable. This impressive dish is the signature dessert from the Shelbourne’s afternoon tea created by Pastry Chef Caoimhe Hanafin, which they have developed into a plated dessert. “We have a very busy afternoon tea, 140 to 150 people - and that will still be going on on Sunday while we serve 340 people in the Ballroom so no pressure!”, the chef laughs. The dinner will finish off with some Rémy Martin VSOP truffles. Working with the premium cognac was a first for the chef. “I actually tried it a couple of weeks ago and I was really taken aback, they are excellent.”
While he is conscious of the challenge, cooking for so many of his peers doesn’t scare him. “I hope that on Sunday at 5 o’clock I still have my sanity and we have delivered a fantastic experience!”, he says. “I want the chefs in the room to enjoy it, I want them to have a nice meal. I’m not about fuss, it’s about two or three elements but those elements have to be executed perfectly”. Garry firmly believes that the whole team will make sure the event goes without a hitch. “If they are standing beside me, that’s half the battle.”