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Ampersand Events and Science Museum Pudding Cook off!

Earlier this year, Ampersand Events began a dynamic new relationship when we won appointment to the Science Museum’s list of approved caterers. We’ve got a very exciting event coming up in their amazing space and; pulling it off in collaboration with the Science Museum’s in-house events team is going to require a great relationship. Luckily a couple of months back our two teams got together for an ice breaking and team building event, putting our respective culinary skills to the test in a dessert themed cook-off.
This was a great chance not just to showcase our chefs’ mastery of food but also to demonstrate how their technical skill and scientific know-how makes us the perfect match for the Museum. It also proved to be the perfect bonding exercise!

The build-up was tense, with the Science Museum’s Events Manager Sam Glenister-Batey baking through the night in preparation and a flutter of tweets flying back and forth between the two teams.

Our chefs are used to working in high pressure environments, but they’ve never quite known the turmoil that ensued once the bake off began!

The big day arrived at The Kitchen and with it the Science Museum team. We gave them our best Ampersand welcome with champagne and a selection of Chef’s delectable nibbles including wafer thin potato crisps with a mascarpone and pesto filling, goat’s cheese fruits on edible soil, tomato consommé shots with cucumber spheres, and our watermelon "caviar” with crispy prosciutto.

Round One: The Bake Off

The first round was based on the familiar "Ready, Steady, Cook!” format: both teams were provided with matching boxes containing identical ingredients, a professional chef, and a strict time limit. Our chefs are used to working in high pressure environments, but they’ve never quite known the turmoil that ensued once the bake off began! The Kitchen was a manic hubbub of excitement and very frantic cooking, with each team very eager to demonstrate their abilities.

Each team broke up into smaller groups to focus on a specific confection and in this way were able to produce a number of desserts. The resulting sweet treats included apple strudel, chocolate and raspberry mousse, upside-down apple tarts, and a deconstructed apple crumble (could you guess that apple was one of the ingredients?) The chefs were keen to declare the round a tie, but when pressed they finally relented, awarding the point to the team from the Museum.

Round Two: The Technical Challenge

For this challenge, each team selected one member to take part while the rest cheered them on. After watching a step by step demonstration of the "spherification” technique from the master, Ampersand Events’ Head Chef Lukasz, it was down to our Senior Event Manager, Francesca, and the Science Museum’s Sales Executive, Jade, to prepare and present their five best attempts at the perfect beetroot sphere with goat’s cheese centre. Spherification is the culinary process of shaping a liquid into spheres using sodium alginate – such a scientific technique seemed apt for a competition with the Science Museum team!

After some deliberation the chefs announced that they had chosen a winner but would not be sharing the information until the final challenge had been completed.

Round Three: The Cocktail Challenge

The teams were presented with a vast array of spirits, liqueurs, mixers, and fruit, along with an accompanying chocolate dessert. Two members of each team were given the role of "taster” with the arduous assignment of tasting the dessert to discern the various notes of flavour in order to create the perfect complementary cocktail. The tasters then rejoined their teams and began the task of creating a cocktail which would match the pudding and could be served in large volumes at a Science Museum reception event. The team from Ampersand made a chocolate orange flavoured delight which they named Terry’s Mistress, while the Museum team created Sanasa, a refreshing lemony concoction.

The Results:

The teams took a well-earned break in the Tasting Room with pizza and drinks, while Ampersand’s Managing Director Paul Jackson and our Executive Chef Andy Ritchie mulled over the cocktails and considered each group’s merits.

At last the judges ended the suspense: Francesca was named the winner in the technical challenge, bringing the score level, but alas, our hopes were dashed when Sanasa was declared the winning cocktail, meaning that the Science Museum had come out on top overall.

Never sore losers, our plucky cook-off candidates congratulated the Museum team on their win and turned their attention to the event’s thrilling finale. To top off the day, both teams were welcomed back into the kitchen where Lukasz put on an incredible display of his fine skills with molecular cookery, creating fluorescent fruit caviar and spherical fruits, washed down with sambuca spray!

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