Caterer Middle East catches up with the Ritz-Carlton DIFC’s chef Philippe Bruneau and bartender Alessandro Bianchini, winners of the second annual Platinum Fusion Competition
The concept of the Platinum Fusion Competition, sponsored by Russian Standard and MMI, is simple: a chef and bartender must come together and create a dish and cocktail using Russian Standard as a common ingredient.
Both food and beverage should be linked with at least one other common ingredient and here’s the challenge, they must be created simultaneously in front of a panel of judges within just eight minutes.
The 2011 final, held at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, was only the second edition of the competition to date, but with nine leading mixologists and chefs from across the UAE competing, standards this year were incredibly high. And with AED 10,000 (US $2700) worth of Russian Standard Platinum for their hotel or outlet up for grabs, not to mention a trip to Russia for the winners, so they should be.
Ultimately, the panel of nine judges — some focused on technical skills, some tasted blind and some who had a consumer angle — decided three competing teams stood out the most after ranking each dish and drink on a variety of in-depth criteria.
In third place was the team from Grosvenor House Tower Two, while second position was claimed by standalone outlet Margaux.
The winners were the Ritz-Carlton DIFC’s Philippe Bruneau, chef de cuisine at Can Can Brasserie and Alessandro Bianchini, bar supervisor, No. 5 Lounge & Bar, who impressed the judges with their faultless performance, understanding of the link between bar and kitchen — a core focus of the competition — their technical delivery and, finally, the taste of their Alice in Wonderland inspired concept.
Bianchini explains how they chose their second common ingredient: “The idea was to create something unique and, at the same time, full of meaning. We wanted to go back in time, to the roots of vodka-making.
The original vodka recipe was based on potatoes, an affordable ingredient that can be found in abundance in Russia. Keeping this in mind, we started looking at other vegetables widely used in Russia and decided to base the entire concept around beetroot, an equally affordable and commonplace vegetable.
“The concept was formed as soon as we agreed on using beetroot. We just let our imagination run wild and could literally feel creativity in the air! For the dish, we chose beetroot flavoured scallops complementing the cocktail itself. We also played with the texture of the cocktail, creating small balls using a “spherified” technique,” says Bianchini.
So, who decided it would be a good idea for the pair to swap roles half way through the cooking time?
“We wanted our presentation to really stand out and to be fun to watch, so from the early stages we were focusing on the performance part,” says Bianchini. “We’ve been rehearsing our performance for a while, when we came up with the idea of a swap.
“For us, the swap idea was a way to say that a chef and a bartender working together can be a really exciting combination.”