Back of house Gourmet Escape powerhouse

Acknowledged: Amanda Smith received a deserved hug of thanks from Heston Blumenthal after last year’s demonstration.
Acknowledged: Amanda Smith received a deserved hug of thanks from Heston Blumenthal after last year’s demonstration.

IF you were to sneak a peak behind the main stage at the Gourmet Escape village, you would discover a small kitchen filled with a team of young students and culinary lecturers, cutting, cooking and preparing for the likes of the culinary super stars who will present their recipes front of house.

Each year it is the role of South West Institute of Technology commercial cookery lecturer Amanda Smith to coordinate this team to make the demonstrations on stage look effortless.

From sourcing ingredients from her backyard to across the seas to be used by presenting chefs, Ms Smith locates, assembles and prepares everything that touches the benches of the stage.

“My job is to look after any chef that is demonstrating at Gourmet Village,” she said.

“It’s a job where one week to the next I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

UK Michelin chef Sat Bains sealed Ms Smith's good work with a kiss.

UK Michelin chef Sat Bains sealed Ms Smith's good work with a kiss.

In October Ms Smith receives recipes from the chefs, requesting specific items and utensils to use in their creation.

She does her research, investigates the ingredients, purchases their cook books and studies the chef’s philosophy to how they approach their food.

Ms Smith recalls having to procure ingredients that would prove difficult to anyone in WA, let alone the South West, including pheasant eggs and 15 types of edible flowers.

There are no short cuts and Ms Smith says the chefs are very particular about how their food and their restaurants are represented at the event.

Once the demonstration is over it is worth the months of effort Ms Smith and her students have put in, with most chefs thanking them for their hard work.

“It’s almost like greeting an old friend back of stage,” Ms Smith said.

 Amanda Smith said Matt Preston nailed the rehearsal backstage demo before his ‘real’ one onstage.

Amanda Smith said Matt Preston nailed the rehearsal backstage demo before his ‘real’ one onstage.

Recruiting students from Challenger Tafe and the SWIT campuses from Bunbury to Margaret River, Ms Smith said the experience offered a unique opportunity to meet and interact with chefs not usually accessible.

Ms Smith recalled one student bursting into tears after meeting Heston Blumenthal, unable to believe she had met one of her idols in the flesh.

“To have people of that calibre in the region is incredibly important,” she said.

“It’s that reputation that when you come to Margaret River you’ll be looked after.”

Ms Smith’s ultimate dream is to one day see more women take to the main stage.

Tickets to this year's Gourmet Escape are available through gourmetescape.com.au.

This story Back of house Gourmet Escape powerhouse first appeared on Augusta-Margaret River Mail.