Recipes for Success: Tashas Group’s Chef Jill Lee Okkers Talks New Menu and Shares a ‘Recent’ Recipe
DUBAI: Rising up in South Africa, Jill Lee Okkers virtually gave up on her dream of working as a chef.
The face behind Tashas Group’s flavors of eating places, that are making waves within the UAE and coming quickly to Saudi Arabia, was requested by her father to think about one thing extra steady.
“I wished to be a chef – my mother and father instructed me I could not,” Okkers instructed Arab Information. “That was 17 years in the past, kind of. And at the moment, it was nonetheless a really male-dominated trade. It nonetheless is on some ranges.
“It was simply arduous and hard as an trade and I feel my dad was very protecting and mentioned, ‘Hear, I feel possibly you must get an workplace job.’
“And so I studied journalism… I like meals and I like to cook dinner. However I wasn’t even certain I used to be going into this trade if it was really going to be my profession.”
This autumn, Avli by Tashas, the modern Athenian restaurant in DIFC Dubai, introduced the launch of a brand new a la carte menu. With the addition of 15 new dishes, it displays founder Natasha Sideris’ love of Greek delicacies, together with a watch for perfection and a focus to element.
“It’s extremely a lot Natasha’s imaginative and prescient that we have tried to placed on a plate,” Okkers mentioned. “Many occasions, she offers me key phrases. For instance, with Avli’s newest menu, she mentioned, “I simply need contemporary stuff.” And we actually took that and made all the things on the menu as contemporary as potential.
“So we went fully completely different to what we at the moment do at Avli, which was highly regarded and cooked and baked. In comparison with that, now we make it very contemporary, ethereal and lightweight. So plenty of occasions it is her route.”
With a level in Culinary Arts, Lee Okkers has been within the hospitality trade for over 15 years, holding positions comparable to Head Chef and Improvement Chef. She has had the glory of serving the likes of Sir Elton John and Annie Lennox.
Requested when her fascination with meals started, Lee Okkers factors to childhood household meals.
“I feel we have been a household that gathered across the desk fairly recurrently. So for us, meals has all the time been a gathering and virtually like a secure house.
“Even at this time, we adults nonetheless collect across the desk at 6:00 p.m. to eat dinner. So for me it was all the time about seeing folks collect to eat and the enjoyment that got here from that as an entire and the satisfaction that got here from having a full stomach.
“And I feel simply the neighborhood of what was shared at a desk; Meals undoubtedly brings folks collectively.”
Lee Okkers shares with Arab Information her favourite meals, pet drops…and the significance of salt.
What was the most typical mistake you made when beginning out?
It is getting too scorching, I feel. So I inform my staff, “all the time begin low and gradual,” particularly in a pan. When you begin too excessive, it burns or overcooks and you need to begin over.
What’s your greatest recommendation for beginner cooks?
At all times a superb knife and a superb chopping board. Many individuals are inclined to neglect this.
What ingredient can immediately enhance any dish and why?
God, salt! Additionally an excellent salt. I swear by Maldon—I season, cook dinner and end all the things with it. And it is really not a “salty” salt, in contrast to (others) which are fairly acidic and robust within the mouth. The easiest way to sweat onions is so as to add salt to attract out the water, and Maldon is ideal for that.
Once you exit to eat, do you end up judging the meals? And what’s the most typical mistake or drawback you discover?
I criticize the service greater than I do the meals. I am fairly adaptable if another person cooks for me I am tremendous pleased. I all the time inform folks that I’m the simplest particular person to cook dinner for. If somebody gives to make me a toasted cheese sandwich, I am like, “Oh, my God, thanks.” However I feel the largest factor I criticize greater than anything is the service.
What’s your favourite delicacies or dish whenever you exit?
I am often an enormous fan of a extremely good bowl of noodles or ramen. And relying on the place I’m, I like a extremely good piece of fish. And simply one thing easy. It is simply garlic, olive oil, some lemon, nothing sophisticated. However then once more, it additionally takes lots to get a chunk of fish good.
What’s the buyer request or conduct that annoys you probably the most?
I am typically open to plenty of requests (however) we get some strange ones. At a Tashas cafe, somebody asks us to weigh all their meals.
When somebody desires to fully change a dish to suit a dietary requirement, I am similar to, I order one thing else or I do not go away the home. You are going to eat one thing that I do know you are not going to take pleasure in as a result of it is not what it is alleged to be. So there’s a positive line as a result of I do not thoughts requests. However I additionally don’t desire folks to vary the entire imaginative and prescient of what we wish to current simply because they do not eat cheese or one thing.
What’s your favourite dish to cook dinner and why?
I feel my go-to dish at house is all the time a superb, hearty steak as a result of it is one thing that comes collectively actually simply. And you understand, I put the potatoes within the oven, the garlic within the pan with butter, the steak. After which in one other pan, only a fast sauce occurring the facet. It is the simplest factor to place collectively and occurs in simply 15-20 minutes, if not much less.
RECIPE: Dakos salad
You carry 4
Herb French dressing:
90 ml of olive oil
45 ml of crimson wine vinegar
60 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon of contemporary oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon of contemporary parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to season
Spicy Tomato Sauce:
250 g beef tomatoes, grated
50 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon of contemporary oregano, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to season
250 g of feta
70 ml of cream
Utilizing an electrical hand whisk, beat the cream and feta till clean and creamy.
On the plate:
300 g carob biscuits
20 ml balsamic discount
Spicy tomato sauce
400 g previous cherry tomatoes, minimize in half
100 g kalamata olives, inexperienced and black, minimize in half
Herb French dressing
The overwhelmed woman
Salt and pepper to season
10 g of chopped dill
10 g torn basil
Add the carob pods, the balsamic discount and the spiced tomato sauce to a bowl. Combine effectively, letting the carobs take in a few of the dressing.
In one other bowl, add the heirloom cherry tomatoes, olives and herb French dressing. Season effectively.
On a big plate, add the carob combination and prime with dollops of creamy feta. Prime the feta with tomatoes and olives. Drizzle the highest with any of the sauces left within the bowls.
Garnish with olive oil, chopped dill and torn basil leaves.
Sundried tomatoes or olives add additional texture to the salad.
Maldon salt is most popular.