Fresh, Foraging and full of flavour

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When you grow up with a Nona and mum that love to cook, it’s bound to rub off, or so says MasterChef Professionals starring Michael Demagistris.

With some of his fondest memories being around food and the aromas from the kitchen, Michael soon pursued a career as a chef and hasn’t looked back.

These days Michael works on the Mornington Peninsula and is bringing his passion for food to an Italian Masterclass in Sorrento.

“We are running the Friday night masterclass for around 60 people to demonstrate cooking techniques and enjoy a great meal together,” says Michael.

“Many of the dishes are inspired by my Nona, doing a lot of the dishes she used to cook when I was a lot younger, so I am bringing those dishes back with a modern twist.”

Michael has created a delicious menu for masterclass guests, starting with a charcuterie style board.

“We will be doing things like bresaola, beef that has been cured, a variety of different cuts of meat, and a vegetable terrine to start,” says Michael.

“This goes great with polenta with black olive salt and Nona’s relish. The share platters will make it more like a family meal where all the food comes out together to enjoy as a group.”

For the main course, Michael will be demonstrating how to make that famously difficult risotto.

“Everyone thinks risotto is the death dish and that’s certainly how it is perceived on MasterChef but, if you follow the right steps and use the correct ingredients, it shouldn’t be,” says Michael, who loves to forage on the peninsula and will be using wild mushrooms from Red Hill and Main Ridge in his risotto.

MD deccreatives-28“My style is based a lot on foraging and the peninsula is a great for that with so many fresh herbs and mushrooms, especially the pine mushrooms.”

Michael says that it’s important for people to understand that cooking is seasonal and the tastiest dishes come from fresh ingredients that you have grown or foraged for yourself.

“Recently I went foraging in Red Hill and found pine mushrooms and slippery jacks which made a delicious mushroom stock. I’ve started making some great jams and preserves from local fruits as well to sell at our Sunday market stall after the masterclass,” says Michael, who has created a sensational fig and earl grey tea jam and cumquat and botrytis jam. “You can use old school ingredients and give them a modern twist.”

Being a chef has taken Michael to some incredible places, most recently being fourth on the 2013 MasterChef Professionals series.

MasterChef Professionals was a lot of stress but very positive. When you’re playing for a big prize, the goal is to win as I have always had a dream of opening my own restaurant.

“It was an amazing experience, meeting chefs like Marco Pierre and Matt Preston, and their feedback about my dishes was encouraging and positive.”

Michael says when he finally got down to the top six he thought he had a good chance to take out the title.

“When you get that close you understand you are really in with a chance and I was confident with the dishes I was putting up. Even though I didn’t win, it was a great experience and I left on a high with Marco saying some amazingly encouraging things, to be proud of who you are and don’t give up on your dream.”

Taste of Sorrento Italian Masterclass and Dinner is on Friday 29 May at 6.30pm

Cost is $70 pp plus drinks at Buckleys Chance, 174 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento.

Call 5984 2888.

See Tastes of Sorrento for program and event details.

First published in Mint Magazine – May/June 2015

Author: Melissa Walsh

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