Mastering Merengue With A Super Little Aussie Chef
Fingers intertwined, hands fidgeting, Greta Yaxley looked just like any other ordinary girl would look when a group of reporters begin to bombard her with questions.
Every now and then, the 12-year-old Australian Junior MasterChef winner would either look at her mom, as if looking for answers, or smile nervously.
Yaxley, who is also a gymnast as well as her now-daily routine as a chef, has been into cooking since she was a small child.
“I started cooking when I was about 2,” she said. “I was just mixing cake batter with Mom, I helped Dad with the barbecue and it just kept going from there.”
The Perthian paid Indonesia a visit on Sunday after Portico Terrace Bistro invited her to celebrate their third anniversary. Courtesy of OPCO, the creator of Portico, Indonesia was the first international destination for Yaxley following her victory.
“We wanted something new, that’s why we invited Greta,” said Nazyra Noer, OPCO’s head of public relations and media manager.
Incorporating the three most important elements of Portico — dining, drinks and music — the skillful Yaxley was featured to serve Portico guests with an international-standard dining experience.
“I feel so lucky to cook in Indonesia,” Yaxley said, modestly dressed in a chef’s uniform, with her hair braided to the side.
Luckier were the girls who watched Yaxley in action.
After welcoming Yaxley to her chef’s table on the terrace, she was warmly greeted by children who wanted to see the girl they usually watched on television up close.
Before serving each of three dishes she prepared, Yaxley had a little demonstration of how she cooks the dishes. Some of the young girls swarming her were lucky enough to be picked as her assistants for the demonstration.
For the entree, Yaxley prepared feta tortellini with butter sage and raisins, a simple dish with dumpling-like pasta filled with feta cheese with a light, refreshing taste from the butter sauce.
Unsure whether the appetizer was supposed to be served at room temperature, the dish was nevertheless perfectly cooked and shaped into a lotus, just as professional as it looks on MasterChef.
For the main course, more than 100 guests on Sunday had Yaxley’s citrus and tarragon chicken with walnut orange and pomegranate salad.
According to Yaxley, cooking chicken breast can be a challenge.
“Cooking chicken breast, it can get really dry,” she said. “I put a few pieces of citrus with the chicken in the oven to keep the moisture.”
Thanks to Yaxley’s precautions, the carefully sliced chicken breast had the right moisture with a fruity essence from the citrus. You might also find another fruity explosion from the pomegranate arils in your salad.
The guests had to wait for at least an hour in between each dish, but they did so patiently while being entertained by the celebrity chef’s show.
After two courses, it was finally time for the much-anticipated dish, Yaxley’s lemon meringue.
But this time, the young chef had a little twist when demonstrating to the guests how to make her famous dessert — Middle Eastern meringue with berry compote topped with almond short bread, which she first made when she was only 8 years old.
“The thing about making meringue dough is that you have to dare to put it on your head,” she said.
To make sure the dough has the right texture and composition, she explained that it has to stick to the mixing bowl, even when it’s turned upside down.
Without warning, she tilted the bowl above the head of the presenter, who instantly turned a nervous red.
After a gasp from the audience, the presenter finally breathed a sigh of relief. Like Yaxley said, the white dough didn’t fall on him but stayed inside the bowl.
Yaxley knew that the tortellini and the chicken breast were quite filling, so she avoided the ordinary, chocolate desserts with a huge scoop of ice cream.
Her meringue had a light crunchiness to it, colored with a little bit of sweetness from whipped cream and a grand taste from the jam-like berry compote. It wasn’t heavy or filling, which kept the guests hoping they would get a second helping.
With so many recipes in her back pocket, Yaxley couldn’t pin point a signature dish, let alone a dish she really likes to eat herself. The one thing she was certain of was her plans for the future.
“When I get out of school, I’d really like to open a fine dining restaurant,” she said. “I’d really like to write a cookbook.”
She also wishes to meet famous chef Jamie Oliver someday.