Cookery schools have found themselves in a bit of a pickle over the last year, over and above what the wider hospitality industry has had to put up with. The close contact nature and group mixing that’s characteristic of a fun cookery lesson is really been tricky to replicate through the last year of tiers, rules of six, household mixing restrictions and substantial meals. As with all sectors in Hospitality though, flexibility and innovation is characteristic and has led to The Grand Cookery School gearing up to offer virtual cookery lessons, delivered through everyone’s new best friend, Zoom. This is how I got on with The Virtual Grand Cookery School!
I actually took part in a tester session for one of these a few months ago so had some idea of what to expect when I joined up. The equipment and ingredient list arrived in plenty of time to get prepared for the evening’s entertainment, which would be centred around producing a Thai green curry. Rather convenient given that I still have possession of a good amount of quality Thai produce thanks to a recent delivery from Zaap Thai, whose recipe kit I was lucky enough to sample recently. With all my supplies in order, I did my best impression of mis-en-place, in this case featuring a laptop perched on a microwave as a more unusual addition to the setup, I opened a beer and was ready to go.
The lesson started on time and with appropriately high production values, as you’d expect from a Virtual Grand Cookery School, before head tutor Andrew Dixon took the screen and introduced himself. I’ve had the pleasure of several courses with Andrew now and his inhabiting a laptop was no inhibition to his easy and approachable manner, with participants’ microphones remaining open to make sure everyone was at the same point and had their questions answered. Being a good pupil, I’d done a good bit of prep in advance so was able to take things at a more leisurely pace, relaxing with that beer while my classmates caught up.
I’d decided to use chicken thighs (decided might be a strong word for raiding the freezer) as the protein for my green curry and it didn’t take long before we had things simmering away nicely, with time to concentrate on getting some rice well rinsed and ready to go as well as trimming some herbs and chillis with which to decorate our creations. This took place over less than 2 hours, running perfectly to schedule while allowing Andrew plenty of time to answer queries, something he’s extremely able to do with a clear and concise manner and a huge amount of knowledge. By the time we’d finished, all the participants, who’d variously been using chicken, fish or vegetables as the basis of their curry and receiving advice bespoke to the chosen ingredient, had their dinner ready to go – in one case having prepared a meal for six people!
Obviously a virtual Grand Cookery School is going to feel a bit different to standing in a room with your fellow participants, but they’ve done as much as possible in the circumstances to approximate that experience, with the modest £29 price for instruction reflecting that. It would be fantastic to have the option to order the ingredients for delivery, and hopefully once logistical challenges are met this is something The Grand Cookery School will consider. Obviously I can’t wait to get back into a cookery school that includes someone to do the washing up for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and the meal it delivered.
Disclaimer: No charge was made for this PR sample experience.