Maria Elia – Flavour Forecast 2012.

Maria Elia

Maria Elia has always loved experimenting with tastes and unusual ingredients in the kitchen and she’s passionate ahead of culinary and flavour trends.

The McCormick 2012 Flavor Forecast offered the perfect opportunity to create innovative recipes, applying a fresh perspective on tradition and balancing modern tastes and cultural authenticity.

The Flavour Forecast enlists the help of an international group of experts including:  chefs, sensory scientists, trend trackers and food technologists, who collaborate annually to identify emerging culinary trends and flavours.

The forecast acts as a catalyst for innovation among food manufacturers and foodservice professionals. Schwartz collaborated with Maria Elia, who added her own personal twist on the Flavour Forecast by developing six contemporary new recipes appealing to the UK palate.

These include:

•   Raw Lamb Kibbeh and Asian Pear Salad Honours Roots 

•   Watermelon Cooler Cocktail takes you on a Quest for the Ultimate

•   Honey, Harissa Marinated Aubergines wrapped in Kataifi brings Veggies back in Vogue

•   Jerusalem Artichoke and Vanilla Soup with Seared Scallops gives Simplicity the Shine

•   Red Tea Ganache with a Cinnamon and Plum Compote encourages Flavourful Swaps

•   Blueberry and Cardamom Glazed Ham reminds that flavour has No Boundaries

“It's been a fun and exciting challenge; a global adventure to inspire the palate!" Says Maria. “My years of experience in kitchens all over the world have helped in blending flavours with tantalising results.”

From a young age Maria knew she was destined to be a chef. “I was inspired by the cooking in my Cypriot father’s restaurant, in Richmond upon Thames. My father worked in the kitchen and my mother ran front of house. My grandmother was there too, helping in the kitchen, so it was a real family affair.

“My nursery school was based locally so my mother could collect me and take me back to the restaurant where I would watch my father perform.  There was so much excitement and energy in the kitchen. I got to know many of the customers and was able to take food out to the regular diners.

“Sundays were fun. My father and I would go shooting together and on our return with the pheasants and pigeons, we would prepare the birds while sitting on the back doorstep.

Pickled pigeon breast was my favourite dish.  It’s a Cypriot speciality, which I still love today. I would take it to school in my lunchbox with taramasalata and other unusual delights to the horror of my school chums!”

At the age of 16 Maria won a five-year scholarship from the Trust House Forte catering college. This rigorous apprenticeship combined the opportunity to work in some of London’s leading establishments with learning management skills and studying wine.

“That’s when I discovered a new love!” says Maria. “I was fascinated by the whole process of wine and achieved the highest grades in the country for my wine exams. It’s been a passion ever since and I’d love to own a vineyard one day.”

Maria worked in a wide range of restaurants in the UK and abroad. Working as a chef onboard a millionaire’s private yacht for two and a half years gave her endless choices and new discoveries.

Shopping in exotic markets, discovering new ingredients and eating at portside restaurants was quite an education,” she recalls.  “You taste things you never knew existed and have the chance to put wonderful flavours together. The locals were always willing to share a recipe or two.”

Travelling the world has given Maria familiarity with different food cultures, which in turn can be used to create the wow! factor.

Maria is now Head Chef at Joe’s Restaurant in South Kensington where she lets the food that she is cooking do the talking. “I like my dishes to be ‘ooooh yeah!’ a bit different,” says Maria. “Flavours should be memorable and a fresh taste makes your taste buds more alive.”

Maria has became a regular on Great Food Live, Daily and Saturday Cooks, Daily Cooks Challenge, Food Poker, Ready Steady Cook and Market Kitchen and she also writes for BBC Good Food, Olive, Food and Travel, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s Magazines.

“My father is still in the restaurant business back in Cyprus running his own taverna,” says Maria. “Its always a bit of a busman’s holiday when I visit – I am either offered a job in the kitchen or font of house!!  Having my own restaurant some day would be my ultimate dream – I just need to find myself an investor!”

For more information on the McCormick 2012 Flavour Forecast visit http://www.schwartz.co.uk/Whats-Hot/Flavour-Forecast-2012.aspx

Poppy Watt

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