Food has always been an essential component when we socialise with friends and family. Nothing beats sitting around a table and sharing great cuisine whilst enjoying the company of others.
As a child some of my special memories include the grandeur of going out for lunch with my Grandad and Nana at a local restaurant where we were able to experience a variety of delicacies. On crisp white linen table cloths, silver cutlery lined either side of the plates, with the eating order ‘outside in’. The maître d’ was always very attentive to our every desire. I loved the way the food always looked, the presentations were amazing, with the taste a close second. There was even an ice sculpture keeping the cubes of butter cool.
Now with so many cooking programs and ‘how to’ videos available, the value of presentation is well known and can be the difference between going home or making it through to the next round of a competition. Beautiful food, presented in crisp colourful images, flood social media tempting us to give it a go.
Some years back our friends decided it would be fun to have a cooking competition of our own, where the women would cook and the men would do the blind judging and afterwards we would all enjoy the spoils of the competition.
Beforehand we all got together to agree the cooking category, associated rules, scoring criteria and points split for the judging. For our first competition we decided to bake a cake, any type of cake was permitted it was the bakers’ choice. The judging would be based on both the taste and the presentation of a single slice of the cake. Competition on!
How I approach competition is how I try to approach life in general.
Set your goal, know what you want to achieve.
Aim high, don’t let fear limit your choices.
Do your research.
Follow the rules.
Try your very best.
I love carrot cake and I always find it hard to resist a slice, however for the competition my choice was a chocolate three layered cake with coffee crème filling. I made this choice due to my assumption that most men (the judges) would prefer the layer cake over the carrot cake and more importantly the presentation component of the competition would suit this type of cake.
Knowing my friends I knew that there would be at least two other bakers who would be up for the competition and put everything into it as well, so my approach was go hard or go home.
On judging day the cakes were all placed on a table with white linen cloth along with their associated cake slices. Each cake looked extremely yummy. In the middle of the table lay the prize, a wooden rolling pin awaiting the engraving of the winners name.
They were all delicious and scored highly for taste, however my entry scored the highest for the individual slice presentation; based on the judging criteria I went all out for both the taste and presentation categories.
My layered cake was covered with chocolate ganache, a rich dark topping which is a mixture of chocolate and crème. Around the sides of the cake were a number of chocolate leaves which I had created by painting rose leaves with melted chocolate, when peeling off when cool the leaves look amazing with both the shape and imprints of the veins. In the centre of the top of the cake were shaved chocolate curls, cooled melted chocolate shaved with a sharp knife when cooled to created delicate thin long curls of dark chocolate. Around the base of the plate I also included a few fresh strawberries as a contrast to the rich brown colour.
The slice of the cake looked amazing with the dark layers separated by the beige coffee crème. On the plate itself I had spooned a small swirl of dark chocolate and two droplets to sit either side of the cake along with a strawberry sliced and spread out and finally some delicate chocolate swirls. My eyes and mouth are watering just remembering it many years on.
The ganache coating would have probably been enough, but putting in the extra effort ensured my success. This level of presentation took a little extra effort but my experience has always been that by fully committing to a project in life the benefits can be exceptional. I have learnt that part of my self worth comes from feeling good about a job well done.
We went on to have another four competitions and I was lucky enough to win most of them, not because I was the better cook but because I committed to the challenge. If you think the cake sounded good the chocolate and berry marbled individual cheesecake that won the cheesecake competition was next level, melt in your mouth delicious.
Don’t be afraid of competition, commit and give it your all.
Go hard or go home!