Green & Black's Head of Taste, Micah Carr-Hill, is looking for a Taste Assistant.
The winning candidate will support Micah in the development of new Green & Black's products – sourcing ingredients from all around the world, working with marketing on the development of ideas, developing kitchen samples, scaling small trials to factory scale and even getting involved with technical and sales aspects.
For many food and chocolate lovers, if Micah's job is the best job in the world, this is a close second!
To find just the right person, Micah isn't planning your normal run-of-the-mill interviews. Oh no! He's running a series of challenges designed to find a candidate with an excellent palate and the creativity to put it to good use.
To give his unorthodox interview challenges a road test, Green & Blacks got together with Miele and invited a group of bloggers to have a go at those same challenges.
And somehow, Green & Black's Community Manager, Gail Haslam, talked me into participating in the 15:15 challenge. We had £15 and 15 minutes with which to create a dish which showed our skills in balancing flavours. Eek!
Before the cook-off we were welcomed by Micah and then enjoyed a talk by Frutarom's flavourist Matthew Stokes. It was fascinating to learn about the complexities of flavours in chocolate (and coffee too, actually) and to discuss the differences, pros and cons of natural versus artificial (synthetic) flavourings. During the talk, we were passed sniff sticks dipped into various flavourings including a rather disgusting butyric acid. Gag!
All too soon it was time for the first round of 15:15 contestants to get cooking. I held my nerves together, despite some giggling visits from blogger friends and produced my very simple dish – four individual cheese toasts (Cheddar, Stilton, a goat's cheese log and Epoisses) served with a fresh pear and ginger chutney. (Scroll down for the chutney recipe; it's a good one so do make some yourself!)
It was all I could do to complete this in the time so I was blown away by the talent of my 4 fellow competitors when we took our finished plates to the judging station. I quickly stroked goodbye to the beautiful red kitchen aid that was the first prize!
Round two resulted in another 4 stunning efforts. Very impressive indeed!
Once Micah had finished tasting, the rest of us dug in and tasted each dish.
Three stood out for me: Luiz's quails cooked with chocolate, cinnamon, pistachio and rose, Simon's duck breast with a quince and red peppercorn sauce, cassoulet, green beans and edamane in a light basil emulsion and Meems' pasta dish featuring brown beech mushrooms, dashi, soy, mirin, salmon roe, shiso leaves and spring onions.
Other challenges during the evening were the two taste tests – a cocktail one, where we had to guess the ingredients in two specially designed cocktails by by Drinks Fusion and a chocolate one, for which Micah created two different chocolate ganaches and asked us to identify the flavourings he'd added.
The well-deserved winners were Jennifer (cocktail taste test), Meems (chocolate taste test) and Meems again for the 15:15 challenge. Her dish was a really clever and tasty balance of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. I can't tell you how exciting it was to watch her teary emotions as she was announced as the winner of the cookery challenge. It was lovely!
During the evening, we were also treated to some delicious sweet and savoury canapés, not to mention more cocktails! In fact, Pepe, the handsome barman, designed a cocktail especially for me featuring freshly squeezed clementine juice, double cream and crème de mure. Delicious!
At the end of an already wonderful evening, we were also given gorgeous boxes full of Green & Blacks goodness to take home.
Many thanks to Green & Blacks for one of the best events and evenings I've attended for a long time and best of luck to Micah in his search for his new Taste Assistant!
Kavey's Pear & Ginger Chutney
2-3 Conference (or other hard) pears – peeled, cored and diced
1 small onion – peeled and finely diced
3-4 chunks of stem ginger (the kind one buys in syrup) – very finely chopped
100 ml cider vinegar
Approximately 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar (to taste)
2-3 tablespoons of ginger syrup (from the jar of stem ginger)
half teaspoon powdered all spice
- Peel and dice the onion and throw into a pan with the cider vinegar.
- As the onion is cooking, peel and dice the pear and add to the pan.
- Next add the brown sugar, syrup from the stem ginger jar and the all spice and stir.
- Continue to cook on a medium heat.
- Lastly, finely chop the stem ginger pieces and add to the chutney.
- In the challenge, I cooked the chutney for as long as I had available. However, when I made a second batch the next day, with my leftover ingredients, I gave it longer to cook – about 15 minutes after I'd added the last ingredients. Aim for soft onions but some bite left in the pears.
- About 5 minutes before the chutney is finished, have a taste and adjust sugar and vinegar to achieve your preferred balance of sweet and tart. If you add more sugar, it will need those 5 minutes to dissolve and mix into the chutney.
- When finished, serve as is or preserve in sterilised jam jars to mature further.
I'm really, really happy with this chutney recipe. It's completely my own invention as I couldn't find any suitable recipes to use as a guideline. It seems that my growing love of preserving over the last 18 months has paid off as I think this chutney has a lovely balance of autumnal flavours. I hope you enjoy it too!