A few years ago there was a spate of performances that brought the idea of a feast for your senses very much to life. From downing tequila while watching an actor fry pork chops and pop corn to Bobby Baker’s frozen peas and ballistac buns, it was a time when theatre companies and artists looked to engage their audience in a way that had never been done before.
In more recent times, the rise and rise of the celebrity chef alongside a growing desire for pushing our culinary handiwork beyond spag bol and apple pie has seen this phenomenon flipped on its head. Chefs are being pulled out from behind their kitchen door and asked to show us what they know.
We want big demos, fresh ideas and new recipes; we want to watch your years of expertise fillet an entire side of salmon while you regale us with tales of the time you went fishing with some fellow cooks. And professional tips? Well, why don’t you just pour your twenty years of industry experience into one half hour slot and teach us everything you know. We don’t want actors pretending to be cooks – we want chefs with all of their knowledge and knife skills rolled up in the flourish and showmanship of a cook demo!
One of our local Perthshire chefs who has earned his stripes behind the mic is Graeme Pallister of 63 Tay Street. Graeme was what you’d call a reluctant starter, with no desire to stand in front of hundreds of people and attempt to explain the thoughts, movements and neat little tricks that had become like second nature to him. How long should I leave it? How much salt do I need? How exactly should I slice that turnip? These question all have answers that he no longer has to give any thought to.
However, after being bullied into a few Farmers Markets he was asked to appear at Edinburgh Foodies, Scone Palace’s Game Fair and the Royal Highland Show. He has shared a billing with Clarissa Dickson Wright, Gino de Campo and Nick Nairn. He has had cookers fail to switch on, souffles refuse to rise and stolen many a show with an accidental fit of giggles.
But after a few years on the Scottish cook demo circuit the most surprising thing of all is that he now quite enjoys it; the restrictions of limited space, a counter top stove and a list of ingredients that cannot be improvised upon at the moment of cooking, all appeal to his inner control freak.
“The only thing I stopped enjoying was the travel. The only event I did last year was the Perth Show and this year’s looking the same. I had kind of refined my presenting skills – well, I stopped stuttering and burning stuff! - and I’d actually began to enjoy that interaction with the audience that you just don’t get on a normal night in the kitchen. We’d run occasional demo dinners in the restaurant but this year we’ve decided to make it a regular event and invite people into 63 to enjoy dinner and show.”
The Demo Dinner at 63 Tay Street will run on the last Wednesday of every month and will see Graeme stand in front of a busy restaurant while demonstrating a cooking technique and recipe dish. Diners will enjoy a little amuse bouche to graze while they watch on with plenty of opportunity to ask questions and request tips! The main course, which in true showman style, is the exact dish they have seen being prepared will be served with a glass of wine chosen by Lucas, 63 Tay Street’s restaurant manager.
“We’re not doing fancy rosette style cooking for this; it’s tasty, impressive food that people can recreate at home. The focus is always on one special ingredient – next month is smoked haddock – and we show people how to get the most out of it using other seasonal items.
We’ve had amazing feedback and our diners really seem to get into the spirit of the event with some even offering their own tips for cooking. Everyone is welcome - we’ve priced it to be inclusive – and there’s always the chance that as well as a great meal you’ll see me having a jolly good laugh”
Demo Dinners will be available on the last Wednesday of the month: April 26th, May 31st and June 28th.
Find Out More about 63 Tay Street Demo Dinners in Perth >>>