HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


I need HELP from a chef

  • 69
  • Share

hi, im a culinary student and we're getting near our final assessment, we are required to do a 3 course menu withing 3 hours, i just need your opinion on my menu especially on the flavors,

Napoleon of tomatoes in balsamic reduction with edible garden salad accompanied by truffle vinaigrette and ahi tuna tower

Main Course
Surf n’ Turf of spinach-green pea risotto on a grilled fillet mignon with black peppercorn sauce and pan seared prawns on mango caviar topped with saffron-almond foam accompanied by foie gras bonbon ( is the sauce flavor go well with the rest of the components?,

Mocha crème brulee with brand snap and marinated mixed berries accompanied by raspeberry mousse in caramel dome


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
  1. Your menu is all over the place. I would seriously rethink your approach.

    Appetizer: You have three things going on here, tomatoes, truffles, and ahi. I am not sure that any two of those go together well let alone all three. I would limit yourself to your tomato Napoleon with balsamic, or the ahi with some form of vinaigrette; but not a truffel vin.

    Main course: You have so much going on here I don't know where to begin. I guess I would start by losing the bonbon completely. I think you can lose the mango caviar and your saffron-almond foam as well. If you want to include saffron you could do risotto Milanese. If you are wanting to do steak and shrimp with risotto I would try ot find a cut of steam that could be sliced and fanned out over the risotto (flank).

    Dessert: You have a ton of different flavors going on here. Chocolate, coffee, berries, raspberries, caramel...If you are wanting to serve berries with your brulee you should consider going with a plain vanilla brulee or maybe white chocolate. I am not sure what the purpose of the raspberry mousse in the cone is.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jpc8015


    2. I am so NOT a chef, but as jpc8015 said: TOO MUCH. Or as I was taught - before you leave the house, take off one piece of jewelry or accessory.

      Is it considered cheating to ask professionals for help? Isn't learning how to compose a dish or a menu part of what you are supposed to learn?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Just Visiting

        I certainly don't think it is cheating by asking for input from others. Especially since a huge portion of the grade will more than likely come from execution and presentation.

        If you would like some examples of what other chefs are doing for three course menus check out the website for Charlie Palmer Steak in Las Vegas and find their "Cut of the Week" menu. It is a three course menu that changes every week.

        You could also check out Beast in Portland, OR. Take out the cheese course and the charcuterie plate and you have a three course menu. Something tells me that the OP is already familiar with Beast as the foie gras bonbon is a trademark of Executive Chef Naomi Pomeroy.

        1. re: jpc8015

          thanks for the reply! i am happy with the feedback :)

          ill remove the truffle vin. on my appetizer, as for my main, ill think of another way to work it out. i did a dry run on it, it looked good, really good, but the flavors. mhmmm to much overpowering on one another, as for my dessert, maybe ill just ditch the "mocha" in the creme brulee. =D

          1. re: hackerpoako

            You have a great attitude in the face of all the shit we've thrown your way. Please come back and let us know how it goes! (Pictures too - I'd love to see the caramel dome.)

      2. Just when things sound good.... you then add like 3 more things that are entirely too much.

        1. Oh, dear.
          It's just...... too much.
          Please. Just reduce. Take out the prawns and the fois gras. Just ... Do a beautiful filet with a little veg, and you will shine.
          Ditch the berries and mousse and dome, the brulee and snap will be lovely.
          Keep it simple.

          12 Replies
          1. re: tracytrace

            Agreed. Surf and turf rarely works. It has a wonderful decadent sound to it, but the flavors too often clash.

            1. re: tracytrace

              sorry, but i cant keep it simple.
              our chef told us to make a high end menu with many components on the plates...

              1. re: hackerpoako


                let's reconfigure. :) you still need a theme through each plate and nothing here really "fits" as a whole.

                move the prawns to the app with the tuna. incorporate your mango caviar as a garnish. fry the prawns like this:


                use the ahi as a pile of poke on the side. color, texture, hot, cold. wasabi or avocado crema underneath. salmon roe garnish, even with quail egg.

                main course:

                keep the steak and brandy (?) peppercorn sauce will still work, and possibly add a bit of bleu cheese foam. it's richer but great with meat. i still vote for robuchon potato. way more forgiving over hours than risotto and a more natural pairing with steak. also still vote for the fried shallots. height, crunch, visual texture.

                keep your foie gras bon bons as a garnish around the meat.

                keep this all VERY condensed and add a pyramid of different colored, dressed tomatoes as the "veg". use small tomatoes, cut on different angles, and they will pair nicely with both the bleu cheese espuma and the peppercorn sauce.

                this main plays off both a steak diane and a steakhouse tomato/bleu cheese salad. context.

                the brulee and caramel cage are too similar. what about the cage, the mousse and some chocolate swirly stuff?

                like this:


                good luck.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  sir, how did they fry the prawns like that? =D
                  thanks for the reply!

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    hotoynoodle: your second link looks like fried shrimp -- not dessert.

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      it is fried shrimp. i never said it was dessert.

                      whoops! just checked and see i pasted the same link twice. dopey me.

                      this is chocolate:


                  2. re: hackerpoako

                    Simple does not necessarily mean boring and uninspired. I would focus on technique, turning root vegetables, making a perfect tomato concasse, pave of potatoes, quenelle of fresh cheese...mango caviar. Layer your flavours, look at how Thomas Keller makes 'simple' asparagus coins...

                    1. re: hackerpoako

                      <<<let's reconfigure. :) you still need a theme through each plate and nothing here really "fits" as a whole.>>>

                      I've been preaching this on CH and to up and coming chef's for years. Listen to hoytoynoodle - good advice - and I'm going to stay out of this fracas.


                      1. re: hackerpoako

                        you can have many components but they dont have to look like the closet they instead need to look like and outfit.. your menu seems to throw every highend buzword it can... One thing should Star and the others should back up singers

                        first course
                        loup crudo of mediter­ranean sea bass, texas grape­fruit, avocado, fennel vinegar
                        Second course
                        72 hour prepped Wagyu short rib with a cashew compound butter andfried dinsour Kale asian pears and toasted pumkin seeds

                        1. re: girloftheworld

                          "they dont have to look like the closet they instead need to look like and outfit"

                          Nice analogy!

                          1. re: girloftheworld

                            op has 3 hours -- not 3 days.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              it was an example of one thing being "the star" the not a sugestion..of what to make

                      2. As someone who went through several culinary programs I think that you should not be asking anyone, especially chefs, about help in designing your final assessment. The assessment is about Your Design, Your Execution... not anyone else ideas or execution. If you think it isn't all about you, then ask your instructors if it is ok. If you feel you can't ask your instructors if it is ok to ask this question, then you know it is cheating.

                        1. It seems like chaos- more a list of things you can do than a cohesive menu. As for the cheating aspect that some posters have brought up, I don't believe it is. You're asking for an opinion on your menu, not a new menu. Good luck!

                          1. Your menu is way too busy and confused, with flavors that conflict.

                            Edit, edit, edit.

                            And keep your time constraints in mind as you put together the menu.

                            1. Too much everything.

                              1. I too find the menu way too complicated and confusing. There has to be a star and 2 maybe 3 complimentary flavours. Think classic combo and technique:
                                Fried cheese with tomato concasse, basil and chives with toasted bread with bagna cauda
                                Filet mignon, seared and seasoned with salt and pepper, served with lobster risotto with terragon and fresh peas and a little marscapone.
                                Please remember execution is key. I would think of perfecting classic sauces, hollondaise, mayonnaise, bearnaise, beurre blanc...you would never have time to make sauce espagnol.
                                How about a gratin of berries with a sabayon and a bruleed
                                crust. Same Idea as creme brûlée but a little more inventive. Also note that truffle oil/salt is blasphemous to many.
                                Good luck!

                                1. You are also going to be graded on reality. Your zeal is apparent but you are trying to jam too much stuff into one sock.

                                  1. I have to agree with the others. Don't get me wrong, many of the things on your menu sound wonderful, but it's just too much in each course.

                                    1. my head is exploding. :)

                                      will this be for a summer menu? will you be doing everything, including the risotto, from scratch? with so very much going on you will get bogged down for time -- no question. pare the ingredients and flavors so you can sail through with less stress and less flavor mish-mash.

                                      app: either the tomatoes or the ahi, not both. personally, i feel that tuna tartar is so over-used i get sick of seeing it, never mind if you are not using premium tuna. use a variety of colored tomatoes and a shower of fresh herbs, even flowers, if you can get something like chive blossoms. use a light dressing, like with champagne vinegar. the balsamic is heavy. this course is to whet the appetite.

                                      something like this:


                                      looks more modern than yet another tower of food.

                                      main course: the steak and prawns will work over simpler fresh pea risotto. add some lemon or orange zest to this for brightness. you can finish this with basil oil and a tangle of fried shallots over top.

                                      if you want more luxe and to include the foie, just do the steak, over robuchon potatoes, with the peppercorn sauce and the bonbons. shallot tangle will work here too for texture and visual.

                                      am not a fan of white foam. it just looks like baby spittle and is also a fad that seems to have jumped the shark.

                                      dessert: the raspberry mousse with marinated berries and the caramel dome will still be showy but not over the top. you don't need something bruleed plus the caramel.

                                      i think it's fine you're asking for help. i went to culinary school too. good luck.:


                                      let us know how you do and what you choose.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        thank you for the reply, !

                                      2. Folks, can we ask that you let the discussion about whether this is or isn't cheating go, please? The poster's been upfront about what he's asking and why, so if you don't feel comfortable helping him with his homework, that's totally understandable. But there's not really a way for hounds to accurately determine whether this would be considered ethical by his instructor or not, so if you're concerned that it might not be, please just pass the thread by.

                                        1. Agree with everything the other posters have said - it's just WAY too much. In fact, I feel like you have TWO three course menus here. The tomatoes and tuna are two distinct apps, the beef/risotto and prawns/mango/foie are two distinct mains, and the creme brulee and berries/mousse are two desserts. Choose one of each and focus on technique - you will impress them way more with perfect execution than with ALL those flavors.

                                          1. I'm curious about whether you have so much going on because the "judges" expect to see loads of different techniques.

                                            1. Frenetic - both your menu and the pace you will have to work to create it in 3 hours.

                                              Others have given solid advice, I suggest you ponder some of it.

                                              1. I'll disagree with the others and say if you plate well, you certainly can have three distinct items on each plate....just don't crowd.....and over sauce.

                                                Push the envelope and elevate to a higher level than your peers ...That's what places like EMP do.


                                                17 Replies
                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                  those working at the level of emp are not still students. you can't successfully push the envelope until you have a very solid foundation. the idea is not to show the judges every single thing the op knows how to make, but to execute a cohesive meal in a timely way. bonus points for great visuals and flavor.

                                                  just as an example, creme brulee takes close to an hour to cook and several hours to cool. it wouldn't be ready in under 3 hours.

                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    If the OP has the confidence in his skills to execute the ambitious menu he conceived.....I say go for it.

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      have you ever worked in a kitchen with recent culinary grads?

                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        grads....interns...and a few imbeciles.......the latter was usually the Head Chef.

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          i haven't worked with too many newbies who were more capable of getting around then a newborn foal. i have worked in fine dining all my career, for several james beard award-winning chefs -- some of boston's most inventive. while they ALL were/are crazy, not one of them was an imbecile. if a new cook had proposed a menu like this he'd have been relegated to chopping onions for awhile til he got his head on straight.

                                                          she/he will lose more points for failure to execute than gain points for flights of fancy. honestly, would you order this as dinner?

                                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          i already did the dry run on this menu, i squeezed it at 2h30mins, im just doing it in small proportions

                                                        3. re: fourunder

                                                          With all due respect, his menu is confused with a lot of conflicting elements and will take a lot of time to execute.

                                                          If he "goes for it" IMO his chances of success are dicey.

                                                          I still think he is better off editing and executing.

                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                            While the ingredients may seem odd or non-traditional in your local....

                                                            The menu reads close to something you would see in a tropical one....and then maybe not so strange.

                                                            btw.....what is mango caviar?

                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                              except for mango, what's tropical here?

                                                              mango caviar:


                                                              molecular gastronomy and another of the items that needs to be prepared close to a la minute on this menu

                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                ahi....prawns....I had both when I was in Hawaii.

                                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                                  prawn is typically a british term for larger shrimp but you're right, ahi is hawaiian for yellowfin or bigeye tuna.

                                                                  everything is global now, obvz, i just don't see a theme in the op's menu.

                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                    it should be colorful.....

                                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                                      right. except benjamin moore won't be judging. :)

                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                        In the past, I had considered opening a restaurant that would be called Trios or 3's......Most entrees would have no more than three ingredients....and off the menu, you could select any three items(smaller portions). In essence, you would create your own plate with whatever hit you in the head, no holds barred and without rhyme or reason....just what you felt like eating because you could not decide.

                                                                        That's what I thought of when I read the OP's menu.

                                                                    2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                      im the philippines, so the difficult thing to buy and cook in this menu is the fillet mignon, since its imported and i have just little experience handling such cut/quality of meat. i still have 2 months to execute this menu properly, and nah i dont have a theme too i based my menu on whatever comes to my mind regarding the presentation.. any suggestion to replace my beef? maybe a marinated pork? im just having problems with the flavors

                                                                      1. re: hackerpoako

                                                                        Pork Belly.....

                                                                        1. re: hackerpoako

                                                                          What are you most attached to in each course? Knowing that would help me to make more specific recommendations for you to try out.

                                                                          If you go hotoynoodle's route, staying with fillet or some other classic bistro cut of beef makes sense. But if you are more married to the prawn and mango caviar than you are to, say, the fillet and the peppercorn sauce, then I'd have different suggestions.

                                                        4. I'm not a chef. I do know a lot of chefs, and have competed against and been judged by professional cooks in cooking competitions. You get pretty good feedback doing that a few times.

                                                          More often than not, it seems to me that chefs are more impressed by fantastic execution than far-out conceptualization. Pick things you know how to execute really well.

                                                          If experimental cuisine is your thing, you can do that, but limit your experimental techniques/combinations to one per plate. Any more than that is just unnecessary risk - you'd likely get marked down even if it works really well, much less if it doesn't.

                                                          If possible, try to have some unifying theme through each plate. Even a half assed one, if need be.

                                                          1. i am looking at this from a marketing point-of-view - and would anyone paying the bill order like this?

                                                            i appreciate that this is a student question - so I recognize that they are working hard on achieving their goals.

                                                            from a customer POV (ie marketing) - I would think that it's essential for any establishment and its team (AND that can certainly range in definition) that wants to make a +difference for its guests' nutritional intake and/or experiential enjoyment, would know that food is more than what is on the plate.

                                                            i think there are for sure, different styles - this menu or presentation would not be my style if i were dining out. But that does not mean it is wrong. Marketing (in its truest full definition does not mean "things that i like" - right? that's what many of us entrepreneurs have not yet learned.)

                                                            Simplify - make the ingredients the main attraction - don't overwork them.

                                                            that said - maybe some geographic regions expect, enjoy and pay more for this seemingly complex style of menu and food presentation - so ultimately you need to make what you are comfortable with - that you KNOW your audience (your eaters) will enjoy and pay extra for in the long run)

                                                            ps - I would assume you are trying to create for yourself a "signature" style - and for all we know - maybe this is it. (your post above)

                                                            good luck and I hope we learn more about your final choices and the results.

                                                            1. The idea of surf and turf as conceived in the sixties was ying and yang, the heaviness of steak juxtaposed with the simplicity of a lobster tail. In this time I look more to meld and harmonize flavors. For example, make either the surf or the turf more subordinate but complimentary, like the classic carpetbagger steak or a mound of lump crab on a thin slice of roast beef. Of course you'd want something more nuanced and sophisticated, like crawfish in a risotto or salmon roe complimenting a pan sauce to go with the beef. IMHO filet is boring. I already chimed in elsewhere in this thread with onglet. Whatever turf you choose, make it interesting. Maybe oxtail or a short rib.

                                                              I'd go back over the menu and for each course identify the single featured great ingredient and the single accent or juxtaposition, and make everything else sublimate and support.

                                                              13 Replies
                                                              1. re: tim irvine

                                                                Maybe oxtail or a short rib.

                                                                3 hours?

                                                                I would use Deckle or Flat Iron myself.

                                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                                  Doable in three hours, but I like the flatiron. I guess my point is that there are just not a lot of ways to stay in the traditional surf and turf idiom, especially with filet mignon, and turn out a dash that evokes reactions like wow, inventive, complex, etc.

                                                                  1. re: tim irvine

                                                                    I do realize it's doable....which I surmise you would suggest using a pressure cooker...but that's probably a risky chance without experience using one.

                                                                    I admit to ordering Filet out on occasion, just to get my fix on Black & Blue....but generally I find there are much more flavorful beef cuts for steak as noted. I would even prefer to choose Hanger, Flap or Skirt instead. Filet is boring for me.

                                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                                      filet is boring to me too, but is by far the number one seller in all the steakhouses in which i have ever worked. people like that it is mild and tender.

                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                        I realize it's a popular cut....and my experience is the same as yours....I suspect the reason for many in high end steakhouses is that it's often for a celebratory occasion and it's perceived as the Premium Cut.....Most places around my parts where they serve regulars would probably do a Porterhouse for two to get the best of both worlds...When I travel for golf, it almost always includes a stop at a Morton's...I don't know why, but the standard order for me there is a Filet. When we hit other steakhouses it's always a different cut though.

                                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                                          mon -thurs high-end steakhouses are 90%+ expense account diners. business people eat filet too.

                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                            Boston must be different from New York/New Jersey...

                                                                            Business people tend to order the most expensive things on the menu, to take advantage, no? It doesn't automatically qualify them to have taste/


                                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                                              my experience is that they have to eat out 3-4 nights per week, so order simply, and no, generally do not abuse their expense accounts. especially money guys working for places like fidelity or john hancock. they get plenty of other perks, like access to private jets.

                                                                              am in no way equating popularity with "taste". people like what they like.

                                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                I'm talking about people not paying the bill....aka, clients.

                                                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                                                  if they have any sense of professional etiquette at all, they follow the lead of the hosts, and are generally NOT the one ordering the wine.

                                                                                  this is getting pretty off-topic for the op. :)

                                                                                2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                  No private jets for Hancock folks unless they are the tip top folks. And expense accounts get a lot of scrutiny.

                                                                    2. re: fourunder

                                                                      op has stated being in the phillipines and does not have access to beef cuts that we do in north america.

                                                                    3. re: tim irvine

                                                                      thanks! ill try to reflect on this one!

                                                                    4. our chef told us to make a high end menu with many components on the plates...


                                                                      Many components does not have to mean many different flavors. Think layers of flavor, the same ingredient in different forms or varying intensities. For example, heirloom tomatoes with balsamic tomato water, semi-dried cherry tomatoes, and tomato-truffle gelee, or a couple of small tomatoes stuffed with tuna confit.

                                                                      What are the layers of the napoleon - is there a crispy element or are you just stacking slices of tomato? What would you marinate the berries in?

                                                                      1. Even if your menu as written here were cohesive, I doubt seriously you could carry all that off within the three hour limit.

                                                                        Risotto is more than risky business in a project like this. If it sits for a while (while other plates are being adjudicated) it will become cold and gummy. As well, I never think of risotto as an accompaniment for steak. Potatoes would be a better starch choice, imho. I think the saffron/almond is an odd combination, and that the saffron would get lost with the black peppercorn sauce. If you want to do that foie gras bonbon and not have it look like a pompon on a basketball player, switch your protein and do duck three ways -- with the bonbon being one of the ways. Do a green peppercorn sauce.. Move the shrimp to the appy and lose the tuna. Those kataifi fried shrimp pictured elsewhere in this thread would be spectacular with your Tomato Napoleon!