Friday, July 31, 2009

Meatlovers' Masterclass with Mad Cow

“When I grow up, I’m going to Bovine University” – Ralph Wiggum

Thankfully, I’m not eligible for Bovine University, but I did attend a masterclass with Christopher Whitehead, head chef of Mad Cow restaurant.
Part of
Merivale’s Winter Feasts promotion, this 1 ½ hour class took us behind the scenes of the ivy’s Mad Cow New York-style grill eatery. That meant meat, meat and more meat!

Mad Cow is basically a steak restaurant, and it focuses on different cuts of beef, cooked to perfection. Chef Christopher Whitehead has worked in the restaurant business for 20 years, and has been with Mad Cow since it opened 2 years ago. Apart from being a top chef, he is obviously extremely knowledgeable on the beef products used at his restaurant.

I should also mention that Glenda, one of the managers at Mad Cow, was also in attendance, and she is also enthusiastic and well-informed on the produce and the methods of the cooking process (as well as keeping everyone happy and topped up with wine during the masterclass).

Chef Christopher Whitehead gets hands on during the masterclass

We were introduced to the various breeds of cattle, including Wagyu, and also to the Australian producers of the meat used at Mad Cow, including Rangers Valley and David Blackmore. A variety of grass-fed and grain-fed meat is used, with the flavour of each being quite different. The length of time that the cows are fed for also influences the flavour and texture of the meat, with grain-feeding times ranging from 150 days up to 600+ days!

We were also shown two cuts of meat that had been dry-aged. The dry-ageing process is interesting because it is also time-intensive (special drying room, someone turning the meat regularly), and this translate to a higher price for dry-aged meat.

The cuts of meat we tried included:
- dry-aged, grass-fed, rib eye on the bone (400g)
- dry-aged, grain-fed, T-bone (massive 650g)
- David Blackmore grain-fed, Wagyu skirt steak (marble score 9+)
- Rangers Valley 400-day, grain-fed, Wagyu sirloin (marble score 7+)
- Grain-fed, eye fillet (200g)
- Black Angus minute steak (very thin, cooked very quickly)

The meats included a marbled Wagyu sirloin (right)

At Mad Cow, they use a special American broiler to cook the thicker cuts, and this contraption, which has a flame over the top of the meat, can reach up to 700 °C. The masterclass was held in the kitchen of one of the ivy’s function rooms which doesn’t have a broiler, so the chef used a couple of pans and the chargrill plate to cook the meat. And because a very high heat is necessary to achieve that all-important crust on the meat, the flames were turned up HIGH.
Tip: The meat should be at room temperature, and seasoned generously just before cooking; oil and butter can be spread on the meat beforehand as well.

The meat is seasoned before being cooked in a pan or the broiler

Gosh, it smelt good! But thank goodness for the industrial exhaust fans in the kitchen there, I can imagine the smoke alarms going off big time if we tried it at home (barbequeing outside is probably a good idea).

Mad Cow prepares all their sauces in-house, and the chef also prepared some sauces for us during the class: Mad Cow’s own chimichurri and horseradish cream. Interesting fact: they tearfully grate their own fresh horseradish every week and store it in vacuum-sealed bags to make the horseradish cream. The chimichurri was a fragrant mix of roasted capsicum, Spanish onion, olive and grapeseed oils, parsley and oregano, with lime juice added just before serving.

Salad of tomatoes, buffalo mozzarela and baby herbs, with olive oil

Sauces (from left): chimichurri, spicy barbeque, horseradish cream

Verdict on the meats: We were told how the ‘tougher’ cuts of meat, such as Wagyu skirt, have more flavour than the tender cuts such as eye fillet. I’d heard this before, but didn’t realise how delicious the skirt was – the marbling of 9+ may have had something to do with it. The flavour was incredible, and all the steaks were cooked to a perfect medium-rare. Chef did say that the restaurant is happy to cook whatever the customer wants, so if you must have well-done, then that’s fine.
Tip: The meat should be rested (uncovered) in a warm place for the same amount of time as it was cooked for.

Selection of steak cooked perfectly medium-rare

All up, it was a fun, informative night. It also means that I won’t automatically order the eye fillet when dining out, nor will I necessarily get the scotch fillet when I buy meat for a barbeque.

Thanks to Chris and Glenda for being wonderful hosts for the masterclass.

At the time of writing, the Winter Feast masterclasses for August are not yet available on the Merivale
website, but if you see one for Mad Cow, I recommend you check it out if you love your cow.

Mad Cow is in the ivy complex, at:
Level 1, 330 George Street, Sydney 2000
Ph: 9240 3000


  1. omgg look at all the marbling!! I love how the meat is cooked rare.. Looks soo good.

  2. How fantastic and thankyou for your guide through it. I feel like I was along with you for the ride :) And congrats on your 100th Zumbo cake! That's an amazing (and delicious) achievement :)

  3. Your photos illustrate why I will never become a vegetarian!

  4. What a great idea! I had no idea they were holding these classes.

  5. Yum - what a great class, very informative too.

  6. that medium rare steak has me drooling :P

  7. hi Linda - the marbling definitely made the meat taste mmmmmm!

    hi Lorraine - I love going to classes like this, makes me feel like I've learnt something useful.

    hi YaYa - I'm glad to hear it!

    hi Y - yes, the other ivy restaurants have classes as well. I would have liked to attend a sushi class but they were sold out.

    hi Anita - it was fun as well as informative. Not to mention delicious!

    hi panda - you should have smelt it - sooo goood!

  8. This is my kind of class!!! Wish I got taught this at uni instead...

    I should had gonnnee but I guess I can just take Belles Steakysteak 101 :)

  9. Ah - really interesting to read your account of this event. I was wondering how they'd work and pan out. And skirt steak? Well, I'm going to have to give that a shot now :)

  10. hi FFichiban - haha, the pass rate in my class is quite high, since most of the students would know much more about steak than me!

    hi Forager - the skirt steak is definitely a winner, though I think the brilliant way they cook it has something to do with it.

  11. HOly moly wow look at that yummy wagyu chunks! Looks like you had an awesome time. Ive always wondered what their classes are like It looks really good!

    Lovely pics too