Thursday, 25 March 2010

A right royal time

I had THE most brilliant visit today – to Government House. Leigh, Head Butler, and Ainstie Wagner, Exec Chef, showed a group of us round the main downstairs areas, then to the below-stairs areas of the kitchens, dry store, cool room, then the fabulous gardens which feed our Governor, and his family and guests the most wonderful of organic food (no spray at all is used on the extensive kitchen gardens there).

I have done your usual Government House tour in the past when they have had an Open Day there but never one like we had today, which focused specifically on the logistics of cooking and serving food to our most important personages in Tasmania at our most high-class and prestigious “restaurant” in Tasmania.

Ainstie was nominated on my blog last week as one of my unsung heroes of the hospitality industry (see sidebar), and I didn’t doubt that nomination for one nano-second, but having met her today, and listened to her, and observed the width and breadth of her domain there at Government House, I am now firmly established as No 1 fan in the Ainstie Fan Club!

She was inspirational to listen to as she described how she goes about the actual planning, preparing, cooking and serving of her food there at Government House, whether it’s a meal just for our Governor and his wife, a formal dinner for a visiting head of state, or a formal dinner celebration for 150 (or 400) guests.

As you would expect, no shortcuts are taken in any of the above-mentioned steps, and all is planned and executed well in advance, from the laundering and starching of the table linen both after it has previously been used (and before it is replaced in the laundry cupboard) and prior to the next dinner or lunch planned (so none of those unsightly creases appear on any of the linen), to the harvesting and preparation of their seasonal garden products added to local products showcasing local producers and manufacturers.

Ainstie also keeps constantly in touch with what is happening with food from everywhere, in order to be able to serve food that is relevant to all manner of diners.

I was gobsmacked when one of the gardeners bought in FROM THE GARDEN, not the hothouse, four rockmelons and a watermelon! Can you believe that? The rockmelon was the most sweet-smelling rockmelon I have smelt for ages! And then we saw the pumpkin patch! OMG! Bream Creek Show had one of the Governor’s pumpkins in their competition last week – but the smaller ones which were left in the garden, and which we saw today, were GIGANTIC! I have never, ever, in my whole 61 years, seen a veggie garden like this one!

I was also heartened to see what Neil, Second Chef at Government House, had prepped for His Excellency for lunch today – my favourite, a Thai Beef Salad. Well done, Sir!
Neil has cooked at Government House for 20+ years and I found him to be a wonderful counterfoil for Ainstie. I gained even more respect for him when I saw the ingredients he was including in the Thai Beef Salad - that was true Thai if ever I saw it!

I came away from Government House proud to be Tasmanian, and to know that all visiting officials, heads of state and people of importance are looked after in such a fabulous, professional manner, and spoiled rotten by the staff there, on my behalf.
Posted on by Rita


lemon curd said...

What a lovely post, and clearly a fantastic day. Didn't nick a carrot?

Tassiegal said...

Gosh - sounds like an amazing day, wish I could have gone, I love "behind the scene" days.

Michelle said...

How lucky for a backstage tour! I would love to make it to an Open Day there. The garden sounds incredible.

Rita said...

Hi LC - yes it truly WAS a fantastic day. I would have LOVED to nick a carrot, or watermelon, or ear of corn, but dared not! As it was, I sampled some strawberries from the patch - which were sweet as, and an apple which was beautifully crispy crunchy.
TG - I really was way more interested last time I did the tour, about the inner workings of the dining room and kitchen, so yesterday all my dreams came true!
Michelle - I know with certainty that you, of all people, would LOVE the garden there. So sensible and practical, and beautifully productive. The chooks are extremely well looked after too, and live in the most envious of circumstances too. Someone on the tour commented that they wanted to come back to life (after they'd died) as a chook at our Gov House - so impressed was she with their living conditions!

Anonymous said...

Hey Rita, maybe they should have filmed Gourmet Farmer there?

ut si said...

Hey babes, Gourmet Farmer popped in just after you left today....Check this out...The White House is about to embark on a vegie garden

The Passionate Gardener said...

I am green thumbed with envy....