Red’s Hot Women internship: THE FOODIE EXPERIENCE

25-03-10 – Mucking about in the kitchen

Posted in Uncategorized by Katie Bryson on March 25, 2010

Today was a real treat – I visited the Queen of Hearts bakery in Oxford who supply all manner of tasty treats for Waitrose.

It’s not a place to watch lots of machines in action, it’s all about skilled workers doing most of the work by hand.

After a breakfast of freshly baked warm scones with butter and jam it was down to business.

I saw Easter cakes being lovingly iced and decorated, juicy pies getting their tops on and best of all the Easter cupcakes getting piped with butter cream and special sprinkles on top – my kind of place!

The objective today for the Waitrose team was to brainstorm ideas with the Queen of Hearts  to come up with new products. It was absolutely brilliant being included in the discussions and I really felt like everything I’ve been seeing over the past month is really coming together now.

We headed down to the development kitchen at the bakery for further inspiration.

Stacey the NPD Manager had laid out loads of empty pastry tart cases and all manner of different fillings and toppings. Then we were allowed to get stuck in and come up with all kinds of creations to help inform the development process.

What a treat! Between us we came up with a myriad of delicacies that we had no idea whether they’d work or not. They were put in the oven to cook while we headed back upstairs for further discussions.

Getting a product from concept to shelf is a fascinating process, and one that requires not only creativity but also a fastidious eye for detail and commercial prowess.

Seeing the Product Developers in action at these meetings, I’ve really got a grasp of the level of detail they must go into to achieve the special results that Waitrose products demand for their discerning customers.

The last thing to do was to sample the results of our crazy kitchen session. It was surprising what had worked and what was a disaster! But we were all quite proud of our little creations!

I adored getting stuck in with the food today and experimenting. I also loved being surrounded by hundreds of cupcakes – my little food obsession!

Last day of my internship tomorrow – I can’t believe it’s almost over!

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24-03-10 – The taste of Morocco workshop

Posted in Uncategorized by Katie Bryson on March 24, 2010

Today I got the chance to take part in a Taste of Morocco Workshop that Waitrose’s Executive Chef Neil Nugent and Food Creative’s Lawrence Brackstone were leading for some of the Brand Development team.

I’ve eaten in a few Moroccan restaurants in London over the past decade, but never seriously dabbled in cooking the cuisine at home beyond using cous cous in a few chicken and salad recipes.

Neil runs these cookery classes for the team once a month to help them widen their culinary knowledge, inspire them and perhaps apply it to projects they might be working on.

Neil and Lawrence both demonstrated a variety of Moroccan dishes and talked us through their significance and history. The most surprising thing about the cuisine is, that while spices are an important element of the dishes, it’s a delicate flavour not a gobsmackingly hot one as you might expect.

I’m a big fan of mixing fruit with savoury dishes so really adore the combinations I tried today – especially the Lamb Tagine with apricots and almonds that just melted off the bone, and also the Chicken Tagine with pears and honey – really delicate and light.

The cooked salads – Zaalouk and Takouk – like a kind of cold ratatouille were really delicious, as was the Harrira soup – a chunky lamb and vegetable broth that is traditionally the first dish eaten after the fasting of Ramadan. I could eat soup for lunch every day and not get bored so it’s great to find a new one to try at home!

Next we were split into groups of three and it was our turn to do some cooking. Each team was given a different recipe to follow and once we’d come up with our dishes we circulated around the room sampling everyone’s efforts.

It was a great way to try even more of the cuisine, but also to get a bit of hands on experience. Our group made Seven Vegetable Tagine – lots of chopping involved here! But once we’d prepped our ingredients it was just a question of sweating them in a big pan with a combination of spices, adding some stock and very strong salted lemon and letting it cook.

It’s a lovely way of cooking that’s pretty simple, healthy and with really tasty results. I’ll definitely be adding a Tagine to my kitchen gadget wish list after today!