Behind the Scenes: Cascade and Luke Mangan's ultimate taste test

Most people have a food that they passionately hated as a kid, but have come to love as an adult. Olives, oysters, dark chocolate, blue cheese and coffee all fit the bill.

Chef and restaurateur Luke Mangan fiercely hated Brussels sprouts as a tot, but now eats them with gusto. "Actually, I hated most greens in general – growing up with seven boys in the house, mum was always finding creative ways of hiding veggies in our meals," Luke says.

He recently hosted a tough tasting panel of six-year-olds, with parents in tow, at glass brasserie, in Sydney's CBD, to test just how far he could push the boundaries when it comes to serving sophisticated tastes to some not so sophisticated taste buds.

Our young tasting panel arriving at glass with their parents.

Our young tasting panel arriving at glass with their parents. Photo: Lucas Jervis

On the menu? Ham-poached Murray cod, Vietnamese-braised short rib dusted with onion ash and his famously polarising liquorice parfait with lime and folds of sticky liquorice leather.

"Kids will always want what they want but I think it's important to encourage them to keep trying new foods as challenging as that may seem sometimes," Luke says.

Luke Mangan serving his young guests.

Luke Mangan serving his young guests. Photo: Lucas Jarvis

"It's not everyday you get the chance to have a group of kids dine at your restaurant, so we wanted to showcase some of our classic glass brasserie dishes but at the same time include a few homely dishes that the kids could relate to like fries, mash and peas.

"On this occasion, we had to place a little bit of a sophisticated spin to challenge their taste buds. I think we may have succeeded with that!"


So how did the menu of burnt passionfruit pavlova and parmesan truffled french fries go down? "Not as good as burgers" , "Eww" and "I don't want to eat mine" were a few assessments of the Vietnamese short rib with yoghurt with onion ash.

Our taste testers in action.

Our taste testers in action. Photo: Lucas Jarvis

And the pavlova, with a delicate floral garnish? "You can taste the lemon, but it don't taste good. And why would anybody want to eat a flower?," one mini critic wondered.

Ouch, sorry chef. Luckily the fries went down pretty well, and everyone had a great time.

"It was fun, as it's not something we get to do every day; it really was all about the kids and watching their expressions when exploring the dishes," Luke says. "Kids just want simple, no fuss delicious food and something that's somewhat familiar to them."

Cascade's new grown-up beverage range.

Cascade's new grown-up beverage range. Photo: Lucas Jarvis

Our pint-sized tasters were also served up drinks from Cascade's latest range, in flavours such as raspberry, mint and ginger, and a fresh spiced pear and bitters. Crisp and slightly dry, the pear number is totally unlike standard lolly water-like drinks, with warmth from the spices and a hit of bitters for a decidedly grown-up taste.  "This is something my mum would like," was the overwhelming sentiment from our panel.

Luke, however, was a fan of the distinct taste of each beverage. "Sophisticated food goes well with a beautiful wine; but if you're off the alcohol, Cascade have some sophisticated non-alcoholic flavours that can excite the palate."

Our taste testing panel with their parents.

Our taste testing panel with their parents. Photo: Lucas Jervis