Scholarship winner blog: Week 1 in San Francisco

Photo: Lobster Coral Xiao Long Bao, Benu, San Francisco, USA

Hear firsthand what it’s like to spend a week working for Executive Chef Corey Lee at Benu, San Francisco as our HOSTPLUS Hospitality Scholarship winner Mark Bashinsky from Brisbane’s Aria Restaurant checks in from the first of three overseas stages:

After a comfortable 14-hour flight from Brisbane, I arrived in San Francisco with the sun shining and 20 degrees forecast all week long. The city is alive with the baseball playoffs right now and there are people everywhere.

Stepping into a new kitchen is always exciting and nerve-wracking, especially when it’s rated a two Michelin star restaurant. The obvious difference between the Aria kitchen and Benu is the wide use of Asian flavours and ideas that come from Corey’s heritage and background. In the kitchen you are always learning, whether it is a different way to use basic ingredients to maximise flavour in a dish, such as the power of fresh young ginger in a stock, or the subtle flavour of charred spring onions in veal based sauce. Everything in Corey’s kitchen is done for a reason and with a purpose in mind.

I have worked on all sections of the kitchen throughout the week allowing me to have the full experience in preparation of the menu. Having not much experience in Asian flavours I learnt how to work with new ingredients such as bamboo fungi from China; kim chi as a flavour enhancement rather than a raw product, and also how salted jellyfish can be rehydrated and wrapped around a “shrimp” and lightly fried, creating both a textural and salty component to what seems like a simple dish at first.

The kitchen runs as you would expect from the highest professionalism all the way from first to the last dish.

I have enjoyed every bit of San Francisco, from the morning coffee ritual and daily farmers’ markets, to the late nights working. As I walked back to the hotel each night I truly realised the opportunity that I have been given to learn and travel around the world as a young chef.

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