Brasserie pushes out the culinary boat. Guest Chef Clay

Stepping up the levels of culinary brilliance on island a notch or two, The Brasserie is consistently delighting guests with its emphasis on the very freshest ingredients often plucked straight from the sea or garden just hours before service, combined with talent and flair brought in by the restaurant’s array of guest chefs who enjoy assisting the restaurant’s own exceptional team in creating memorable meals. Wines were provided by Blackbeards. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports on the latest event.

For his 35 years of age, Chef Conley has packed in a tremendous amount of culinary experience in the past two decades, working in all aspects of the restaurant industry.
 
However Chef Clay says he knew what his life’s career would be from a very young age.
 
“I began washing dishes at the age of 12 in a local restaurant where I’m from in Maine, New England, and I loved it. From then on I knew this would eventually become my career choice,” he says.
 
Chef Clay began further education in hotel and restaurant management but felt this was not the right path.
 
“I went instead to work for Todd English at Olives restaurant and ended up working for Todd for 10 years, eventually becoming his culinary director for Todd’s 17-restaurant empire.”
 
During this time Chef Clay spent two years opening and running Olives in Tokyo, where he absorbed into his repertoire the incredible array of Asian flavours that Japan has to offer.
 
“I love to travel,” he states. “It’s so important for a chef to be exposed to other culinary influences, otherwise you just get stagnant.”
 
Now, in his role as chef at Azul, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami, Chef Clay only works with the finest ingredients flown in fresh daily from all over the world, in a style that balances the robust flavours of his New England childhood with the sophistication of Asian cuisine, combining that with Mediterranean rustic allure.
 
The Brasserie’s Chef Dean Max is a long time friend of Chef Clay and the two invite each other to different events they are hoisting around the world. Chef Clay says he jumped at the chance at visiting the Cayman Islands, his first visit, and to work with Chef Dean on an exciting menu at The Brasserie.
 
“I’ve only been on island since yesterday,” he says [at the time of writing], but I’ve already been blown away by the friendliness of the people and the sophistication of the Island. I’m really looking forward to trying out some local cuisine with Dean while I’m here.”
 
The chefs took their inspiration for this special menu (as is the tradition at The Brasserie) from locally available products as well as locally caught fish.
 
A Rosé from De Chanceny’s Cremant de Loire, made from Cabernet Franc grapes in the same way as champagne greeted guests upon arrival.
 
Jodie Pettes from Blackbeards says the Cramants are aged for slightly longer before release and so develop a soft foamy bubble that is delicate and elegant. 
 
First on the menu was a seared Wahoo tataki with a Green Goddess dressing and soy vinaigrette, served with a crispy yucca salad. The wahoo was being carved as I interviewed the chef on the morning of the dinner, having been caught just earlier on, while the garlic chives that accompanied the dish had just been snipped from The Brasserie’s inventive garden that sits adjacent to the property.
 
Made by acclaimed wine maker Ernst Loosen, a 2008 Saint M Riesling, from Pfalz, Germany, was then served alongside the wahoo.
 
Jodie explains: “This Riesling is from the Pfalz region, on the south eastern border of Germany and France, nestled under the Voges mountains. The climate is a little warmer here than the rest of Germany. The 2008 is clean and crisp, with a zesty lychee fruit, mouth coating texture and finishing with a firm mineral edge. With the fleshy wahoo and the touch of saltiness from the soy sauce this was an interesting pairing.”
 
Next up was a yogurt-marinated swordfish infused with fragrant Asian spices including cumin and coriander (cilantro), served along with a Fattoush (a Middle Eastern dish consisting of toasted Pita bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint and coriander (cilantro), brown butter, cashews, in a minted yogurt and lobster sauce. The 2008 Felino Chardonnay (rated 90 points by Robert Parker) served with the swordfish is made by wine maker Paul Hobbs from his Marchiori vineyards in Argentina.
 
Jodie says the wine has an expressive nose of apple, pear, and tropical fruits, while it’s concentrated on the palate and balanced with lively acidity, This full-flavoured, ripe wine has a little buttery nut to the finish, which complemented the richness of the swordfish with mint yogurt and spiny lobster rather well.”
 
Mains was a magnificent grilled beef tenderloin served with crispy potato cakes, grilled spring onions and Roquefort.
 
Diners enjoyed a blend of 85 per cent Merlot, 10 per cent cabernet franc and 5 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon from Chateau Faugeres, Haut Faugeres, Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2005
Jodie confirms this is a well balanced wine aged 14 months in old and new French oak with perfumed aromas, and hints of tobacco. It is full bodied with a core of chocolate and dark fruit with a long elegant finish.
 
True to form, the menu’s dessert was a display in how to turn local produce into something quite special, with The Brasserie’s pastry chefs creating a delicious chocolate pudding sabote panna cota. The sabote is a common fruit in the Caribbean, it’s flesh when cut resembling a big sweet potato. The black sabote resembles chocolate pudding, (hence its nickname the chocolate pudding fruit) and was turned into a classic panna cotta to round off an exceptional meal.
 
A lush, fruity style of Moscato, Batasiolo, Bosc Del Rei, Moscato Di Asti (rated 89 points by Wine Spectator) that was imbued with scents and notes of peach, melon and spice, was a soft and fruity accompaniment to the tropical fruit of the dessert.
 
The Brasserie’s Lisa Flowers sums up the event: “As The Brasserie’s Harvest Dinner Series winds down until November, Chef Dean Max and team introduced The Brasserie’s Guest Chef Series last month. Chef Clay kicked off the series to a sold out crowd with a four course wine pairing menu.  At the last minute, Clay changed the tuna course to wahoo since the freshly caught fish was brought to the back door of The Brasserie that afternoon.  It was worth the quick change which ended up being a favourite course for many that evening.  Dessert was an exotic course since Clay used a local fruit new to him with delicious results. The black sapote (part of the persimmons family) was blended in to a panna cotta preparation.  Jodie from Blackbeards did an exceptional job at pairing the wines for the evening: in particular the De Chanceny Crement Rosé and Muscato stood out.”

 

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l-r Chefs Brad Phillips, Clay Conley and Dean Max

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