The Amateur Table – Celebrating emerging talent in the food industry

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The Amateur Table – Celebrating emerging talent in the food industry

We were thrilled to be invited along to the first Amateur Table supper club led by founder and Essential Certificate alumna Lily Gjertsen.

Supper clubs: arguably one of the most popular ways to eat out at the moment.

Not only is this understandable from a diner’s perspective – an opportunity to indulge in four or five courses of delicious food, often with drinks pairings, in a sociable environment with fellow food-lovers – it also holds a massive appeal for chefs. What better way is there to unleash your creativity? The event acts as a stage on which you can explore your culinary identity.

However, you might be reading this as an aspiring chef; someone who dreams of one day running their own pop-up or supper club but who currently lacks training and experience. To those people, the thought of creating a set menu, sourcing ingredients, working out costings, preparing the food and serving it to 45 – 50 people is probably quite intimidating.

This is where The Amateur Table steps in. On Saturday 3rd March, we headed to Battersea for the first in their series of supper clubs, which aims to showcase the talents of culinary students and graduates.

“Lily guides each chef through the buying process for the event, costing the menu, portioning, and negotiating with suppliers.”

The events act as both a platform and a mentoring scheme for keen amateur chefs. Perfect for those wanting to bridge the gap between simply having the skills and the passion required to do well in the food industry, and becoming experienced in the running of pop-ups and supper clubs.    

On the first Saturday of each month, a promising chef is handed the reins of a professional kitchen and given complete responsibility to develop their own menu and deliver it to the highest standard.

Lily Gjertsen, founder of The Amateur Table and Leiths Essential Certificate alumna, guides each chef through the buying process for the event, costing the menu, portioning, and negotiating with suppliers. Not only that, she’s also secured a venue partnership with London Cooking Project, which is a new private social enterprise committed to developing and nurturing young talent in the field.

To kick things off, Lily led the first event herself. We arrived in Battersea, tummies rumbling in anticipation of her menu, which promised Watercress and pea gazpacho, Smoked salmon mousse, Pork belly with celeriac and apple purée, and Salted caramel ice cream with a ginger crumb amongst other treats.

The London Cooking Project is a true community space, secluded from the main road and nested in the centre of Ethelburga Estate. The adaptable dining room had been decked out with fairy lights, candles and beautiful table settings, giving the venue a warm glow - very appealing after a snow-filled week!

We were welcomed with a Port & Tonic, which will definitely be finding its way onto my list of go-to cocktails. (N.b. Go for white port, red doesn’t work so well – a tip from our host!) Lily and her team are definitely on trend here as there’s also a buzz surrounding Sherry & Tonic, with pre-mixed luxury cocktail Pedrino hitting more and more shelves over the last few months.

The buzz in the room was terrific and, on tuning into conversations, it became clear that there was a strong mix of not only friends and family, but prospective culinary students, current students and alumni who have been inspired by the concept.

Without further ado, let’s talk food.

The menu was perfectly pitched – simple flavours, carefully executed with some well thought through details to tie everything together.

A definite highlight for me was the Smoked salmon mousse with roasted hazelnuts and lemon butter. The combination of textures worked extremely well and the salmon in its two forms complemented each other beautifully, making it a luxurious plate without being too rich. I could have eaten a bucket-load of the mousse alone, so I was actually very grateful that we were limited to a generous quenelle – will power is not my strong suit!

The Pork belly with celeriac and apple purée, creamed leeks and crackling was probably the showstopper of the evening, with plenty of guests asking Lily to share her secret for the perfect crackling. Quashing any perceptions of chefs being guarded about their recipes, Lily was all too happy to give people tips and even shared them on the Amateur Table blog after the event. 

As well as the crackling guide, she shared advice on the perfect wine pairing (which we tried on the night) and her recipe for the moreish smoked salmon mousse. The former was a real treat. Even though the supper clubs are BYOB, Lily provided all of her guests with a glass of her favourite wine to accompany the pork, which she discovered when studying wine with WSET (whose courses run at Leiths.)

The Riesling, from Mosel (Germany), paired very well with the pork belly – the acidity of the wine cut through the fattiness of the meat to refresh the palate, and the notes of apple mirrored the purée and tied everything together. An unexpected but very welcome addition to the night!

As we finished off the evening with Amateur After Eights, Lily’s homemade take on the popular after dinner treat, we were thanked for taking part so enthusiastically in the first night of the series. The fact is that being a part of the event was a total pleasure. It’s heartening to see upcoming chefs stepping out on their first forays and being supported so generously by their peers.

Apart from anything, this series is sure to challenge what we think of when we hear the word ‘amateur’. For me, it’s now a term that bristles with potential and I’m sure that you’ll feel the same if you get a ticket to next month’s dinner.

For your taste of The Amateur Table, book your tickets to the next supper club which takes place on Saturday 7th April. Learn more here.

Leiths alumna Lola will be hosting an evening of Mexican delights, featuring dishes such as Huevo poc chuc (Spiced citrus pork scotch egg, maize and kale crust, pumpkin seed salsa, pickled shallots), and Esquites callejeros (Charred corn, tomatillos, garlic crema, queso fresco, ancho chilli, crispy corn silk). Vegetarian options available. 

Read the Amateur Table blog here.


Lily Grouse

Author: Lily Grouse

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