Recipes for Success: Chef Jill Lee Okkers of Tashas Group Talks New Menu and Shares a ‘Contemporary’ Recipe
DUBAI: Rising up in South Africa, Jill Lee Okkers nearly 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 secure.
“I wished to be a chef – my dad and mom informed me I could not,” Okkers informed 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 laborious and hard as an trade and I believe my dad was very protecting and stated, ‘Pay attention, I believe possibly it’s best to get an workplace job.’
“And so I studied journalism… I really like meals and I like to prepare 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 spotlight to element.
“It is very a lot Natasha’s imaginative and prescient that we have tried to placed on a plate,” Okkers stated. “Many instances, she offers me key phrases. For instance, with Avli’s newest menu, she stated, “I simply need contemporary stuff.” And we actually took that and made all the things on the menu as contemporary as attainable.
“So we went utterly completely different to what we presently do at Avli, which was highly regarded and cooked and baked. In comparison with that, now we make it very contemporary, ethereal and light-weight. So numerous instances it is her course.”
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 Growth Chef. She has had the honour 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 believe we had been a household that gathered across the desk fairly recurrently. So for us, meals has at all times been a gathering and nearly like a secure house.
“Even immediately, we adults nonetheless collect across the desk at 6:00 p.m. to eat dinner. So for me it was at all times about seeing individuals 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 believe simply the group of what was shared at a desk; Meals positively brings individuals collectively.”
Lee Okkers shares with Arab Information her favourite meals, pet drops…and the significance of salt.
What was the commonest mistake you made when beginning out?
It is getting too sizzling, I believe. So I inform my crew, “at all times begin low and sluggish,” particularly in a pan. Should you begin too excessive, it burns or overcooks and you must begin over.
What’s your finest recommendation for novice cooks?
All the time a very good knife and a very good 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, prepare dinner and end all the things with it. And it is really not a “salty” salt, not like (others) which might be fairly acidic and powerful within the mouth. One of the best ways to sweat onions is so as to add salt to attract out the water, and Maldon is ideal for that.
Whenever you exit to eat, do you end up judging the meals? And what’s the most typical mistake or downside 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 blissful. I at all times inform people who I’m the best particular person to prepare dinner for. If somebody presents to make me a toasted cheese sandwich, I am like, “Oh, my God, thanks.” However I believe the largest factor I criticize greater than the rest is the service.
What’s your favourite delicacies or dish if you exit?
I am often a giant fan of a extremely good bowl of noodles or ramen. And relying on the place I’m, I really 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 loads to get a bit of fish good.
What’s the buyer request or habits that annoys you essentially the most?
I am usually open to numerous requests (however) we get some bizarre ones. At a Tashas cafe, somebody asks us to weigh all their meals.
When somebody desires to utterly change a dish to suit a dietary requirement, I am identical 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 presupposed to be. So there’s a fantastic line as a result of I do not thoughts requests. However I additionally don’t desire individuals to alter the entire imaginative and prescient of what we need to current simply because they do not eat cheese or one thing.
What’s your favourite dish to prepare dinner and why?
I believe my go-to dish at house is at all times a very good, hearty steak as a result of it is one thing that comes collectively actually simply. And you already know, 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 happening the facet. It is the best 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 pink 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 easy and creamy.
On the plate:
300 g carob biscuits
20 ml balsamic discount
Spicy tomato sauce
400 g previous cherry tomatoes, reduce in half
100 g kalamata olives, inexperienced and black, reduce in half
Herb French dressing
The crushed 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 properly, letting the carobs take in a number of the dressing.
In one other bowl, add the heirloom cherry tomatoes, olives and herb French dressing. Season properly.
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 well-liked.