Original dishes for a gala dinner

Gala dinner for professionals

Last month I was invited to a special gala dinner. It was not a charity event, nor was it an anniversary dinner, but rather an evening for experts and professionals.

Italian Food Joy received the invitation to partecipate as a guest to this event, in which young chefs presented their best dishes designed for the occasion. The role of the guests, all hotel industry experts, including representatives of the Association of Hotel Managers and Golden Keys Association, was to act as a jury by voting for the best dishes.

The evening, set in a typical location for the training of professionals such as the Istituto Colombatto in Turin, immediately focused on the competition. In fact it is difficult to amaze the experts, who often consider many factors in judging dishes. However, the event gave excellent results, which I’m going to describe below and perhaps you will take some ideas for your dinner.

The challenge

Several couples of challengers worked on the dinner, which consisted of a welcome cocktail with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and “finger food” . Then there was  the classic menu, consisting of appetizer, first course, second course and two desserts. Surely finger food guaranteed a wide assortment of flavors, aromas and pairings with drinks, while dinner was a moment of more complex confrontation, well suited with the right wines choice. The young couples of cooks and barmen actually designed their dishes and their specialties independently, ranging from more traditional recipes to hints of molecular cuisine.

How to judge a dish

When you taste excellent dishes it is often difficult to make choices. I normally start making my senses work. First of all I look at it trying to evaluate the colors, their combination, the balance of any garnishing and space in general, and finally the originality and accuracy of the setting. Then I use my nose. I smell the food to assess the balance between the various scents. This is extremely important, because this factor reveals if the dish is done to be attractive and served at the right temperature.

I then proceed to the consistency test, crucial for certain foods such as meat, sauces, pasta and more. I Simply use fork and knife to evaluate the accuracy of the cooking and the consistency of the various components. If a dish is balanced the various phases of the tasting go on, one after the other and food can be introduced into the mouth, where tongue, palate, chewing, provide other useful information. How does the flavor of the main food spread? How palatable is the taste perceived? When does the aftertaste begin and how long it last? Does the garnishment balance the plate? Do  sauces cover the main food? Is the dish harmonious, balanced, pleasant to chew, good for the most refined palate? These are the main factors assessed. Other important components are: innovation, research, courage in daring new combinations or revisiting classic revisited flavors.

Excellent ideas for you

The welcome moment was characterized by finger food, a practical way to wait for guests that can be useful in any situation. In this contest, the first realization to attract my attention was the “Pearl of Turin” Campari “spherification” with white Vermouth, made with Pecetto cherries emptied of the internal pulp and filled with liquor and served with a spoon, a clear reference to molecular cuisine. About the “finger food” in I was very impressed by the “Fassona Tartare on sweet and sour onion petal and tomato crouton” and finally by the “Green smoked tomino ice cream (ice cream obtained  from a light cheese) on walnut crumble”.

The dinner itself also had excellent dishes, among which the “Asparagus nest with a marinated egg heart” stood out for its general balance. Very refined dish, despite the simple ingredients, it requires extreme care in preparation and placement. Even the first course, “Cocoa Tortelloni with Castelmagno and pears with mountain butter sauce” was absolutely special and difficult to prepare. In fact, cocoa has a strong aftertaste, even when used as an ingredient in pasta. If you decide to make this dish, pay close attention to the balance between the flavors of cocoa, castelmagno and pears. To finish the desserts “Strawberry shades”, an explosion of freshness with an excellent dish and “The cherry on the gala”, a fun and tasty combination of flavors with a touch of silver on the “stuffed cherry”.

Awarded young cooks and amazing delicacies

It was an evening moving towards a trend research, between a bit of tradition and a lot of innovation. All the dishes were designed by talented young students prepared especially for the evening at the Colombatto institute in Turin, also thanks to the participation of important sponsors in the Italian catering sector. All the dishes that you can see in the pictures (which surely speak more than the text) received awards for the originality of their ideas, difficulty of execution, accuracy in the preparation and the final overall result.

Some suggestions for your gala dinners

It was interesting to note that the dinner menu remarked all the allergens for each dish, thanks to a special “legenda” in order to anticipate any requests from people suffering from food intolerances. I consider this a useful tool to prevent moments of discomfort during dinner. As you can see from the photographs, these realizations are rather refined, so I suggest you non to copy them, but to inspire you, by reworking the ideas and making variations on the dishes proposed in order to create your personal recipes.

And cook a nice meal!

Giorgio Barbero

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