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Chef Sophie Cookes 10/10 Dinner Series

Extraordinary chef Sophie Cookes is one of the most talented chefs and caterers in Australia... The World Loves Melbourne was invited along to an exclusive dinner of 10 to celebrate Sophie Cookes 10 years as a maestro of cooking and catering. This dinner was epic for the stylish set up, vibe, stunning cooking, menu design and the personality and flair of Sophie Cookes. She immediately endears herself to you. You feel like one of the family. She will tap into your inner foodie with a distinctive gourmet touch.

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Sophie Cookes is a super talented and lively chef. Congrats on her 10 years of bespoke catering. She has no packages as such but will sit down with you and custom design your menu.

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Part of the exclusive group of 10 diners. Recognise anyone?

Along with other media and lifestyle identities we were greeted by Sophie and Jodi Crocker and handed a glass of sparkling on arrival. Then a tour of the extraordinary CAPI HQ was the oder of the day including the downstairs fashionable cellar and the secret sauna adjoining the CEO's office. We also met John the chef who works with Sophie and the wait staff and were then lavished with top notch food and wine. A night to remember.

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Amazing table arrangement including Cauliflower flowers!

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Tasting spoons with pickled wild caught Australian Salmon, green chilli, lemon zest and finger lime pearls. Such a wonderful tribute to Australian seafood! Zesty, fresh and flavour explosion!

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A highlight and talking point was the Crumbed King George Whiting sandwich with anchovy mayo and watercress. Everything right about this dish including crunch of crumb, delightful deep fried King George Whiting and the fact it was in a sandwich. Watercress for extra fresh taste and crunch.

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Raw scallop crudo with fresh lemon, samphire, parsley chiffonade and creme fraiche. This is how to enjoy fresh premium seafood. Seasonal lemons were a feature with these seafood dishes. Zesty and fresh, balancing the slight sweetness of the scallops, the taste and texture profiles were exciting.

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Whipped Fitzroy butter with Yarra Valley roe and sourdough. What a brilliant idea; load a slice of fresh sourdough with premium butter and salmon roe/caviar. I could settle around this as a meal.

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We were given playful hats to enjoy the Fish based dinner theme. A convivial table.

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Thinly sliced Baramundi Fritti with fried lemon and parsley was another zesty and delicious dish. That crispy barramundi and the tempura style lemon! 

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Even the menu was a work of art.

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Joyful dining.

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Pan fried Dory, butter and lemon. I helped myself to a couple of these fish fillets with a scoop or two of fries. So rewarding!

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Sophie Cookes is not just a great chef but a captivating story teller.

And a quick nod to the supporters of last night’s dinner, Pitzy at Capi for THAT venue, Port Phillip Estate for the wines, The Design Depot for making things so glorious, Michael Strownix for the fry baskets and Moon Pool for the design.

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Fries are important. Sophie Cookes delivered on crispy golden French Fries.

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Jimmy salad.

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Also enjoyed Sliced Hopkins River Beef with anchovy bagna cauda. Perfectly cooked premium beef.

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Pass me some more please...

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Ricotta thimbles, roasted quince with honey and hazelnuts was outstanding.

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John the chef did a stellar job and was applauded.

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For Sophie Cookes, it began with mayonnaise. The young Australian chef was in a kitchen in London, standing before her mentor: the Michelin-starred, razor-sharp Skye Gyngell. It was Cookes’ third or fourth attempt at mastering what Gyngell deemed a worthy mayonnaise. (The bar was set high.) Determined, Cookes asked her mentor: “Is cooking all instinct, or can it be learned?” Gyngell thought on it, and came back a day later. “You learn, and then becomes instinct.” Naturally, the mayonnaise was mastered, and then a whole lot more was, too.

Cookes studied at the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu, in Paris – an institution known for its opulence and painstaking gastronomic training. She was 25.

Each day, in a campus by the Seine, Cookes sat at the edge of her seat, in disbelief that she had the chance to talk about food for 8 hours. At the French academy, she filled dozens of journals with notes and sketches and triple-underlined recipes. She was in the right place, and she was learning fast.

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After graduating, she travelled to London. One morning, Cookes threw her hair in a top knot, put on a t-shirt that read, “I LOVE COOKING” and went to Petersham Nurseries – Skye Gyngell’s culinary institution. She had a 9:30a.m. job interview. (She arrived at 5a.m.)

Gyngell would become Cookes’ mentor. For years, the pair worked early mornings and late nights. Working under Gyngell, Cookes did events with a dizzying array of talent: Maggie Beer, Alice Waters and Greg Malouf included.

But Cookes’ time at Petersham Nurseries wasn’t just about cooking – it was about provenance, too. Learning from Italian foragers, local butchers and Wendy Fogarty, the head of Slow Food London, Cookes was ingrained with a deep appreciation of sourcing and sustainability. Every menu she’s designed since has sought to champion local produce.

All through her training in Europe, Cookes couldn’t shake her dream of spending her career working in the bowels of brilliant kitchens, wearing the burns on her arms like a badge of honour. It seemed inevitable.

A few years later, Cookes returned to Australia. She arrived to find a male-dominated industry, one light on opportunity and tough on new-starters. In Melbourne and Sydney, she dipped her toes in the water, working shoulder-to-shoulder on chef’s lines. But something was missing. She felt the life sucked out of her, just a little.

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Back in Melbourne, she felt compelled to make a new start. With a trusted friend, she co-founded Cookes Food, a company that would meaningfully bring together the worlds of gastronomy and events. The thinking was clear: a lot of catering companies had business managers at the helm. This one would be run by a chef – this one would be run with heart.

And from this day, Cookes Food – proudly – had no packages. There are no standard menus to list on a website or send to prospective clients. Instead, inspired by her training, Cookes creates bespoke one-off menus, each tailored meticulously to the needs, wants and desires of every client.

For a decade, the company has collaborated with clients across Victoria. Cookes Food has designed menus for dizzying high-fashion events, brought heart and gastronomy to intimate 40th birthday parties, and carefully crafted unforgettable meals for brides and grooms who wanted something more than the average.

Cookes Food has a simple philosophy: food without thought is an opportunity missed.

The company has specialized in elevating events from ordinary to extraordinary, and has proudly worked with clients including Christian Louboutin, Jardan, Qantas, Country Road, and countless individuals who value food with heart. Epic.