Drum roll please…introducing the head chef for Cirque Du Soleil’s touring show Kooza and the love of my life, Shane Schipper! In my last instalment for Fork and Fiction I thought I would delve into the underworld of cooking and share with you some insight from the other side of the pass with ‘Confessions of a chef’. Thanks to everyone who contributed questions, we fired them at our chef in the spotlight and here are your answers!
If you could only have one cuisine on your proverbial desert island, which one would you have and why?
Beer can chicken, because I’d get to drink half the can of beer before I cook the chook.
What’s the weirdest request you have had a customer ask that you make?
Recently I served a brunch buffet and had a customer ask “What have you got that hasn’t got meat in it?” I pointed out the scrambled and fried eggs, sautéed mushrooms, baked beans, hash browns, croissants, muffins, pancakes, mixed berries, yoghurt, sliced fruits, cereals, cheese board and all the while saying “This isn’t meat, that isn’t meat”… She asked for her money back.
Who are your cooking idols?
What is your secret shameful food-love?
The dirty bird…KFC. When I was a kid it was a treat that we could only get from the nearest city half an hour away. Half an hour trapped in a car with a bucket of KFC that you couldn’t eat till you got home was torture! So now to eat it when I want is liberating.
Thoughts on the tall white hat?
I like it. I like the uniform and what it represents. Don’t get me started on Masterchef contestants wearing black chef’s pants! Took me 12 years to earn mine. (To all those who aren’t in the know, chef’s are meant to wear check pants until they reach Exec Sous level or above…hence his frustration.)
Best chef moments?
Oddly enough, working a 17-hour day at Claridge’s in London. I would walk home, in the blinding cold, with a stupid grin on my face knowing I had just survived another day working in one of the best hotels in the world.
Worst chef moments?
Having to fess up to one of the angriest sous chefs at The Lanesborough that I’d just overcooked 30 fillet mignons for the VIP banquet about to be served. I thought I’d get the jump on them by par cooking them first, only to completely forget about them while preparing the entrée. I then had to call the nearest hotel and ask if they had eye fillet we could borrow, run down the road, grab it, run up the road and re-cook it. While he was tearing me to shreds I knew I had done the right thing and he appreciated my honesty, but that moment was gut-wrenching… it would have been much worse if I tried to get away with serving them overcooked.
This is a tough question, like trying to answer what’s my favourite song or favourite band. I love variety when eating which I why I like to order every entrée on a menu. (Much to my wife’s distress.) A long lost friend that I haven’t seen since I’ve been in Australia is pan seared foie gras, which I am loving in Europe at the moment.
Pet peeve in the kitchen?
Dipping fingers in sauces. Grab a spoon!
Best source of recipes?
These days the most convenient sources are online. Taste.com.au is great because it’s rated by people who have used the recipe.
My meringues consistently come up flat, what could I be doing wrong?!
Over beating them will make them flat. Avoid being a master-beater. Or better yet get to the supermarket and buy a soufflé pump. (That’s a chef joke, please don’t go and ask anyone for a soufflé pump!)
Biggest misconceptions about being a chef?
That it’s glamourous. There is nothing glamourous about having heat rashes in places you didn’t know existed.
What dish do you recommend to cook, that is fast, healthy and looks as a professional cook doing?
Another common misconception is that I know anything about healthy food! Ask me about something that contains cream, butter and cheese and I’m your man. But for a quick meal I do love stir fried greens with lots of garlic, a piece of salmon, some crumbled feta with pine nuts and if you’re feeling adventurous, make a lime aioli with balsamic.
Ultimate dinner party to prepare a meal for?
I love simple food and I love to be surrounded by friends. Beer can chicken, slow roasted lamb shoulder and potato bake, with mates, just before the footy kicks off, is my ideal day.
Person who most influenced your career?
I like to think it was a team of people who influenced my career. Every kitchen you work in there is a team of people who are constantly pushing you to do better. I think my grounding in food happened during my apprenticeship, surrounded by hard working chefs who made me want to be the best. Cooking is a lot about competition and performing under pressure, those who succeed are the ones who stay cool when the docket rail is full, its 40 degrees and the angriest man in the world is calling you a bunch of pregnant women!
Best foodie book?
Favourite go-to recipe book?
I’ve always loved Gary Rhodes cookbooks. Great recipes and beautiful appetizing photos.
What’s the most difficult dinner preparation have you done and for how many.
I remember my first day at Claridge’s and we were cooking for 100 guests for the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday. The entrée was a crab salad and the guests were being seated at midday. The crab was delivered at 11:30am which meant we had half an hour to cook, cool, crack, clean and sift the crab meat three times to ensure there wasn’t a trace of shell when served. Then turn it into an immaculate meal, fit for a Queen!
If you have any further questions for Chef Schipper feel free to ask in the comments below or drop us a note on our Graze the Earth facebook page. You can also follow our travels on our blog Graze the Earth.
Now I must say “Adieu!” It’s been a wonderful experience writing for Fork and Fiction – massive thanks to Hannah and Ria for inviting me to contribute, it’s been a blast! Until next time…