Monday, November 26, 2012

Guest post by Rachel Canalita, Flame Production intern

My name is Rachel Canalita and I am an intern at Flame Production, the Sydney-based production company owned by Lyndey Milan. I'm from Southern California, just south of LA in Orange County and currently in my final year of studies at Boston University majoring both International Relations and Film & Television Production. I will be in Sydney from mid-August until late November as part of a study abroad program through Boston University.

My time here at Flame Productions began at the beginning of October and ended last Friday, 23 November. Two of my favourite highlights of my internship experience were watching Lyndey's live TV cooking segment at Channel 9 and 'the race that stops the nation,' the Melbourne Cup.

Channel 9
Lyndey was so kind in letting me accompany her to watch her segment on the Channel 9 morning show be filmed; I was also able to gain some live television production experience through observation. Although I am not all familiar with live TV productions, my Channel 9 experience was very valuable for what I hope to pursue in the future. Upon arriving at the network, I was led to Lyndey's workstation, which was a portable unit just outside the studio that they roll inside when her segment is about to be filmed. I had never imagined that this would be the set up for her to work with, but I guess you take what you get. Before Lyndey's segment, she was over in hair  & makeup while I watched the Morning Show being broadcast. The set up was smaller than what I would have imagined, with news desk anchors not being in the same studio at all, but the small space did the job. Once Lyndey's segment was about to be filmed, they rolled in the portable kitchen workstation, which was quite small. However, I believe that for the purposes of the segment, 'Tucker For Tenner,' it works for them.

The piece was a bit rushed, something I wasn't expecting, but I suppose as long as the end product comes out fine it works for them. The dish did not seem overly complicated for the amount of time given, so a lot of prep work did not seem needed. Morning show food segments feel rushed no matter what, but it is quite a different experience watching the productions live; you are aware of how much time should actually be allocated for the dish to be properly cooked, but it just isn't possible with the time frames given on the program.

The studio was set up into three separate areas: two interview spots, and another area for segments, like cooking, fitted out with shelves filled with kitchenware. News room segments were recorded elsewhere, I assume in another studio in the building. All of the segments I witnessed were quite entertaining, and everyone was very kind in letting me feel welcome between shooting segments. The studio was not exactly what I expected, but then again, I've never seen live TV recorded before.

Overall, this experience was very helpful. Seeing the different processes in live broadcast segments vs. recorded TV programs is very valuable to understand.

Melbourne Cup
My first Melbourne Cup experience was absolutely divine. The day started off with sweeps on the race. I pulled Precedence, who unfortunately didn't win, but the race was phenomenal (more on this soon). When the time came in the day to have a break and watch the race, we broke out the cheese and wine. As we chatted, I realised how this race not only stops the nation, but brings people together as well. That's not to say that as a company we rarely speak to each other, but rather, sometimes we just need to come together and enjoy each other's company (and a little bit of friendly competition).

After the race, we celebrated an office birthday with a phenomenal cake made by Lyndey’s PA Julia. This Reese's peanut butter cup, chocolate pretzel extravaganza was pure bliss. The cake consisted of chocolate cake and peanut butter layers with crushed pretzels and a hint of coffee.

Melbourne Cup is the first time I've ever attended some sort of gathering for a horse race. You would think that the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness (America's Triple Crown horse races) would have some sort of effect on the entire US as the Melbourne Cup does for Australia, but this isn't so. I think this might be because there are many sports Americans feel are more important to watch. It's been a wonderful experience seeing how excited everyone gets about sports here in Australia; every sport seems to have some sort of hold on Australia, whether it's cricket, AFL, or swimming.

It's been a wonderful couple of months here in Sydney, and I can't wait to experience more as I have a few more days left to soak up some beautiful Sydney sunshine!

Thanks Rachel - it was a pleasure to have you at Flame Productions.  Lyndey x

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Avocado reviewer competition

I have been involved in the food and wine industry for over 25 years and reviewing for the Good Food Guide since 1987.  Increasingly, members of the dining public are joining the pack of critics so I thought I’d share a few quick tips that I have picked up for reviewing restaurants over the years.

  1. Like any good critical analysis a review should be honest, informed, impartial and as objective as possible.
  2. Use your knowledge of cooking and ingredients to evaluate the dish. Has the correct method been used? Has it been cooked as indicated? Look at whether or not it matches what is on the menu and if the flavours are true.
  3. Try not to be limited by personal preferences. Write a review in such a way that allows the reader to judge whether or not they would enjoy the restaurant being written about or not.
  4. Look at the actual food as well as the big picture. Consider what is actually on the plate - how it tastes, looks and smells. Then look at the menu as a whole, its balance, interest and value, the wine list, service, comfort of seating and ambience.
  5. Finally, go out with an enthusiastic attitude. Expect to find a great meal and don’t be looking for faults. When criticising, make it constructive.
  6. A professional review is written after an anonymous visit and paying for the meal just like any customer. It is not something accepted gratis.

Now that I’ve shared my tips with you, I have the perfect opportunity for you to put them into practice. During the month of November Australian Avocados are giving you the chance to put restaurants around NSW and ACT at the mercy of your palate. Due to the extraordinary bumper crop of avocados coming through, participating restaurants will be featuring a very special avocado dish. To enter the competition all you have to do is order the dish, write up your review and post it to your personal blog, Yelp, Urbanspoon, or TripAdvisor and inform Avocados Australia of the location by the end of November.

Click here for more details on the competition.  

My friends at Bayside Lounge in Darling Harbour have devised a stunning dessert of Avocado Pannacotta with Avocado ice cream and Chilli marshmallow (pictured above) for their lunch menu. Head chef, Uwe, has been kind enough to share the recipe of his Avocado Pannacotta to impress your guests with an unconventional dessert at your next dinner party.

Avocado Pannacotta

5 gelatine leaves
750ml pure cream
125g castor sugar
1 split vanilla bean
150gm avocado puree
1 cup (250ml) milk

1. Soak gelatine in 2 cups of cold water for 5 minutes.
2. Bring cream, sugar and vanilla bean to the boil. Remove from heat and discard vanilla bean.
3. Squeeze out excess water from gelatine and whisk into warm cream mix until completely dissolved. Leave mix to come to room temperature.
4. Place avocado puree and milk in blender and puree until smooth.
5. Fold into cream mix gently as to not create air bubbles on the surface.
6. Pour into desired serving glass and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Best of luck! Lyndey x