What's Happening In Your Kitchen?

L'atelier des Chefs - London

With today’s busy lifestyles becoming prevalent, learning basic cooking skills may well save time and money, and who knows, might even win you a place on Masterchef. How skilled are you in the kitchen?

I’m seriously thinking about enrolling on a cookery course - the hands-on type, not the sit-and-watch type. I’ve done that, and as wondrous as it is to observe the professionals at work, it doesn’t compare to rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck yourself. I’m also a strong believer that participation increases cued recall accuracy.

I’m not an incompetent cook, just an inconsistent one. Concentration levels and creativity with recipe ingredients (or lack of) produces a range of culinary output, last week’s epicurean success could well be this week’s disaster. I really do enjoy cooking, but I seriously wish I could effortlessly produce gourmet dishes on a regular basis. (I also wish I could be fluent in several languages.)

I attended an AGA demo evening a couple of years ago. Don’t ask me why. After several years of cobbling a variety of dishes together on my AGA, I decided to take the plunge and learn how to use this iconic cooker properly. What a spectacular night it was - a day of cooking condensed into ninety minutes (that in itself was impressive). I had a ringside seat and sat through a mesmerising culinary performance with Sarah, the demonstrator. She kicked-off the evening with a full English breakfast followed by a light salmon kedgeree simmered in the bottom oven. A revelation. I discovered that you could fry an egg directly on the hot plate with a piece of magic film called bake-o-glide.

Chops and steaks were roasted to pink perfection, along with a lamb roast with gravy. Glazed carrots were gently steamed in the bottom oven,  then dressed in a provocative orange and honey glaze. A bevy of crisp, golden roasted potatoes finished off the ensemble. A three-cheese poppy seed flan was produced with flair, and finally some home-baked bread and a blackcurrant cake. Sarah performed her last magic trick of the evening, “Just to show we have made the effort,” she said, and liberally sprinkled finely-diced parsley over her savouries, just like fairy dust. We were all magically transformed.

Now the problem with passive cooking sessions is that you get sucked into the dazzling performance rather than memorising the instructions. Thankfully I had notes to take away otherwise I wouldn’t have remembered a thing. So imagine my pleasure when I walked through the front door of L’atelier des Chefs last week in Wigmore Street. I was there for a rum and chocolate tasting - a superb event, even though I did feel a little queasy on the train home. But more interestingly, I became quite curious about the venue itself. Why didn’t this place exist when I lived in London? I’d be a super-cook by now.

L’atelier des Chefs was launched in Paris in 2004 and have premises in France, Dubai and London. Nicolas and François Bergerault started up this company after recognising that French people were beginning to lose their love of cooking. People had no time to cook like they used to, so they developed cooking classes aimed at every day people wanting to learn every day cooking skills. Each course is hands-on and taught by professional chefs. The 'Eat, Cook and Run' course caught my eye and I might even follow up with 'Knife Skills' (handy if there’s an intruder). The fun part is that you get to socialise with your fellow 'chefettes' whilst cooking. There are plenty of course choices, and a cook shop downstairs.

L’atelier des Chef have pitched their course prices just right and there’s something for everyone. I think this is a more realistic way for me to hone my culinary skills and rejuvenate my interest in the kitchen. I shall look forward to producing homemade meals with confidence, and may well become a more consistent cook to boot. I might even sign up for a refresher course in French.

L’atelier des Chefs
10 Wigmore Sreet
London W1U 1PH
020 7499 6580
www.atelierdeschefs.co.uk

The AGA Shop
5 Beauchamp Place
London SW3 1NG
020 7589 6379
www.aga-web.co.uk