If the name Dylan Carter rings a bell it may be due to reading about this aspiring young chef on Belly Rumbles last year. If not you may be a Masterchef Junior fan. I was invited to Dylan’s first ever pop up and was quite blown away by the then 14 year old school student from down Wollongong way. I have continued to stay in touch and kept a keen eye on what he is up to. If you haven’t read the original post, then please pop over and have a read, you will be amazed at what kitchens this young man has worked in.
A year gone by, Dylan a year older and it seems due for another pop up dinner. The diner was organised under the wing of the Australian Good Food Guide’s (AGFG) Junior Development Program.
You could say that Dylan started off ‘soft’ last year, cooking a multi course menu for a group of 10 industry folk in a familiar environment. Okay, it wasn’t a soft start by any means. Dylan worked magic from a domestic kitchen without the mod cons of a commercial one. This time you could say he threw himself completely into the frying pan, cooking a seven course degustation for 40 people at Studio Neon. All of which were willing to fork out $160/person for dinner and matched wines.
Again there weren’t really any average Joes in the room, it was basically a room full of those that have something to do with the food and wine industry. Even a few big gun chefs turned up including Adam Moore, Warren Turnbull and Justin North. Most chefs would feel a little under pressure in these circumstances, but Dylan stayed as cool as a cucumber right through service. How did I know? It was an open kitchen.
Of course no chef, no matter the experience, can prepare and plate 280 dishes over the course of a couple of hours without help. Studio Neon’s Aaron Teece and Richy Robinson were there to lend a hand.
We started off with ‘snacks’ paired with Cuttaway Hill Estate, Laurence sparkling chardonnay pinot noir. There were two snacks (pictured in the header). On the left, prawn, cucumber, finger lime and yoghurt. A plump prawn cooked at 55 degrees with lime pickled cucumber, finger lime puree, prawn oil, purslane and yoghurt snow.
Sitting beside this was what looked like a garnish, but actually snack number two, a nasturtium. The pretty orange flower was filled with sesame crème friache and sesame seeds, on top of a tapioca crisp and sprinkled with nasturtium powder. The prawn was beautifully cooked and the nasturtium a fun way to start the meal.
Blue swimmer crab with wild fennel, almond and asparagus. There was obviously fun had playing around with fennel for this dish, fennel chips, pickled fennel, pureed fennel and fennel fronds. The fennel chips added lovely texture, the crab sweet and moist.
jerusalem artichoke + krinklewood semillon 2013
Fermented Jerusalem artichokes with hazelnut, buttermilk and watercress. Fermented artichoke was a first for me, and without divulging too much behind the scene information, a first for Dylan. It was prime example on how Dylan likes to experiment.
Blue cod with sorrel, burnt onion and pork skin. My cod was cooked to perfection, moist and delicious. Unfortunately not all pieces of cod were created equal and a couple of my dining companions’ cod were over cooked. The crumble on top of the cod is actually crumbled pork skin. Subtle flavours, texture from the crumbled pork skin and perfectly moist fish, this dish was a favourite for me of the evening.
Pork with cauliflower, date, nuts and grain. The pork belly was cooked at 72 degrees for 12 hours leaving it tender. The sweetness of the date puree worked well with the earthiness of the cauliflower. You can see from my photo that the skin on one of my portions was a little burnt. I have to be honest, I didn’t notice until I reviewed my photos. I was enjoying the company and wine a little too much maybe?
The wallaby was cooked to an inner temperature of 55 degrees, resulting in a gorgeously cooked piece of meat. Accompanied by beetroot, red fruits and macadamia. The macadamia was the puree you can see on the plate, quite unexpected and unusual. The red fruits were native plums. With the wallaby, macadamias and native plums, was quite the Aussie dish. Again another favourite dish of the evening for me.
Strawberries with rhubarb, milk and hay. Little meringues dotted the plate and the strawberries vibrant in colour, the hay was infused into the ice cream, and I loved it.
There were many at the dinner that knew each other before the night, and if not got to know others other pretty quickly. Alcohol is an amazing friend maker. There was a fair bit of mingling, and I am pretty sure from the comments that Dylan’s pop was deemed a success. Sure, one was to get all high and mighty there were little imperfection on a couple of the dishes, but to look at it as a whole, what an achievement by a 15 year old. What a brilliant dinner by a chef of any age.
Why a culinary tribute? Dylan’s dishes were inspired by the chefs he has worked with, their techniques and ingredients they have introduced him to. There was also a sprinkle of ideas from chefs that inspire him and other ingredients catching his imagination.
I said it on the night, and I will say it again. Well done young man, once again beautifully plated dishes, clever techniques and tasty to boot.
Dylan Carter is an young Australian to keep an eye on, I see amazing things in his future. If you would like to keep up to date with what Dylan is up to, you can follow him on twitter. https://twitter.com/dylanjcarter1