Glass finds out about a banquet of "pop food" created entirely from leftovers by the chef, Linda Monique
Inspired by breakfast – “the reason I get out of bed” – chef, designer, stylist, performer and chocolate connoisseur, Linda Monique curated a banquet of “pop food” from “leftover scraps” from the kitchens serving five restaurants at five-star city hotel, Andaz. Australian from Melbourne with Polish blood, Monique describes herself
as “a globetrotter”. To commence the feast, the leftover breakfast orange juice, normally served to staff, contributes to ampules of Pimms and Champagne syrup, as well as jars of Darjeeling-infused marmalade,’ she says, a trace of her Australian accent coming through. “My cooking is a mixture of Japanese with French
with undertones of Middle Eastern and British classic items. I like to
play with cultures.” A pervasive curiosity for food runs in her
family. She mentions that her brother, formerly in finance, opened an
entrepreneurial wild mushroom business. “He’s a mushroom hunter of pine,
slippery Jacks, grey ghost and fairy ring mushrooms. Some can grow up
to 20cms wide ...”
Although Andaz’s Executive Sous Chef, Michael Kreiling believed Monique “crazy” concerning the more outlandish ideas, he ultimately engaged with her one-off ethical eating project. “Michael provided phenomenal assistance, hand-selecting brilliant up-and-coming chefs.” The first dish, served within the kitchen of seafood brasserie, “Catch”, comprises sea bass heads, ceviche formed in oyster shell, and pickled cheeks. “People don’t always think of using an ingredient like fleshy fish cheeks, but these helped me craft 50 entrées,” reports Monique. The medley is served on slate with bright green accompaniments – lime and pea purée, fennel crumbs, and a nervy cucumber skin and horseradish mousse.
Celery “hearts” (small leaves within the stalk’s top) are a versatile component of the main act, which might ordinarily be discarded. Monique and Kreiling fry these, adding acidity (lemon) and flakes of sea salt. These are served with finely-shaved beef tongue cooked in stock and cider vinaigrette, reduced overnight, then sprinkled with horseradish shards. Monique appraises the unusual celery garnish: “unlike purely aesthetic micro-herbs, the beautiful hearts have a punch of flavour”. The “sacrificial food-scape” is served in Andaz’s decadent former Masonic temple, featuring 12 types of marble, gilt and pipe organ – “one of the most stunning locations in London which inspired the idea of a primitive feast.”
Finally, representing the iconic, international hotel staple, the club sandwich, Monique harnesses off-cuts normally “fired-off the dessert section”. Accompanied with doughnut “fries”, an egg of “white” marshmallow with golden lemon curd “yoke”, raspberry ketchup and white chocolate mayonnaise, the dessert club sandwich is presented in the domed dining room, 1901, feature of architect, Charles Barry Jnr, son of the mind behind the Houses of Parliament. “The eggs are bruléed in front of our guests – it’s my favourite part of the night.”
Monique took three months to study how to “upcycle” and reinvent ingredients. During her time at Andaz, management handed her the key to what they nickname the “Ali Baba” room, which brims with eclectic kitchenware and tableware. “Such is the variety that each place setting can be different,” she says.
Complementing the special menu is Monique’s sculpture, prime for London Design Week, which greets morning guests sloping to breakfast. This she terms an “eggcentric foodscape”. Representing one per cent of the enormity of eggs consumed at the hotel at breakfast each year, the composition comprises 1,444 delicately cleaned shells. “I’ve filled them with hotel coffee compost and sprouting herbs,” she says, slightly wearily.
Working with wood-makers from Nottingham, they are gripped by sustainably sourced wood reclaimed from a 150 year-old barn. The tactile frame is donated by Ebony&Co, fitters of floors at Bulgari’s Knightsbridge Hotel and Selfridge’s. Although extremely fun and original an idea, I wonder whether the fact that there is enough wastage at Andaz to put on a sumptuous banquet might be an indictment of the hotel. Not so, says Monique. “Andaz already have a minimum waste policy. I saw this as more interesting way of diverting, recycling, and indeed exemplifying the leftover products ...” by Douglas Blyde