The Chefs’ Forum’s Cressperience at Koppert Cress, Rotterdam
Catherine Farinha, founder of The Chefs’ Forum, travelled to Rotterdam to visit the headquarters of micro cress specialists, and sponsors of The Chefs’ Forum, Koppert Cress.
We were greeted by sunshine as we arrived in Rotterdam The Hague Airport, which set the tone brilliantly for the day ahead.
Koppert Cress specialises in cresses; seedlings of unique plants, each with its own unique flavour, texture and fragrance and I, along with a dozen chefs from high-end contract caterer Thomas Franks (Oxford), a Greek chef other chefs from around the world, had made the journey to Holland to take part in the “Cressperience.” Masterchef of Great Britain, Paul Da Costa Greaves, has joined forces with chef to the stars and Food Consultant, Franck Pontais to create this special experience, based around pairing the various cresses with different flavours, and offer a day of inspirational cookery demonstrations and menu development to chefs visiting Koppert Cress HQ from all over the world.
It was just a 20 minute drive from the airport to Monster, in the Dutch Westland Area home to Koppert Cress HQ, where we were met by Koppert CEO Rob Baan and some much-needed gorgeous coffee and delicious macaroons dusted with kaffir lime leaf powder. It was an unusual combination, but it worked perfectly! There was a very cheery mood from the moment we arrived which set the tone for the truly inspirational day that lay in store.
After we were suitably revived, Paul gave a presentation on Koppert in the super-stylish boardroom (complete with cress growing out of the middle of the table). We were then invited to taste various new products and wheatgrass and give our opinion on quality and taste. Chefs giving feedback is priceless to Koppert as they are the end-users of the produce and represent the future of Koppert’s produce development. It is great to see chefs held in such high regard at Koppert, their feedback is highly valued and they are treated as VIPs!
UK Sales Director, Paul Da Costa Greaves (below) has taken the decision to invite various groups of chefs to Koppert HQ throughout the year and offer them the chance to take part in the famous ‘Cressperience’ he said: “The only way to communicate the excellence of the Koppert Cress range is to invite chefs to come and touch, taste and experience the operation first-hand. The last cut is always the freshest cut and the brochure, however well-designed doesn’t do Koppert Cress the justice it deserves – It is far better to cook with it and explore our tasting garden for themselves. This experience is open to all Chefs’ Forum members and anyone wishing to go should get in touch.”
Franck Pontais (below) captivated the visiting chefs’ attention with dish after dish of perfect flavour combinations showcasing the Koppert Cress range. The delicious canapé menu began with Shiso green and lychee granite served in a shot glass with coconut milk over crushed ice. This was deliciously refreshing and cleansing for the palate and would be a welcome addition to any tasting menu.
Next up was cold lobster bisque served on a ceramic spoon with Atsina Cress and Blinq Blossom. The flavours were that of a timeless classic, but there was an interesting twist as it was served in gel form, and I thought it was a perfect partner to the cress.
This was followed by Smoked “Beech Wood” Potatoes filled with soured cream and borage cress which turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser being both comforting and incredibly tasty.
The next dish, Cod Ceviche on a pink rock block of salt with Paztizz top and Aclla cress, looked like it should have been at a showbiz party but ceviche for me is welcome any time, anywhere, and I really enjoyed the delicate aniseed flavour from the Paztizz.
The dishes showed no sign of stopping and this was followed by Roasted beetroot served with Shiso purple and red wine syrup. The colours were amazing and it showed just how much you could elevate the humble beetroot.
A Salad of marinated grilled artichoke with Tahoon Cress Mayonaise and sautéed onions was a perfect dish for a summer’s day and the ensuing Salicornia and grape salad with lime juice was light and refreshing.
A Dark chocolate covered crisp with candied clementine, Limon cress and Shiso green was an interesting take on a classic chocolate orange combination, while the Floregano with liquorice butter and orange segment on pancake disc was a flavour senasation.
The final dish, a “Fizzy” Parsnip crisp dried with Sechuan Buttons proved a great finale to the tasting. Only a week ago I was discussing possible uses for these lovely ‘saliva-producing’ balls with one of our chef members at our last Devon event. We were tasting the various Koppert cresses in a group and discussing possible uses for them. Had I had the ‘Cressperience’ trip at this point, I would have been well away – I now feel I know enough to hold my in a similar conversation in the future.
Talking about the Sechuan Buttons, Franck said, “The trick is to grate them for a subtle buzz, they shouldn’t really be served whole in any dish as they just take over. In this case, the sugar and parsnip dull down the saliva-producing effect making for a great flavour combination.”
Our day at Koppert Cress was delightful from start to finish and we would urge Chefs’ Forum members to experience it for themselves. The produce is market-leading with increased longevity and optimum flavour. The general feel at Koppert is of overwhelming motivation and contentment amongst all who work there. Every day, the jolly workforce at Koppert supply the Dutch traders and wholesalers with a plethora of varieties of cress who in turn distribute the micro cress and vegetables worldwide – It really is a huge operation and to be able to witness it first hand was a remarkable experience.
Any Chefs’ Forum members wishing to have a ‘Cressperience’ of their own should get in touch with Koppert Cress UK Country Manager Paul Da Costa Greaves who will happily book them on to the next trip: Paul@koppertcress.com.
Koppert Cress is available in Wales and the West from our Sponsors Total Produce. Paul will also be able to help with distributors in other areas.