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Cookery courses to the fore in team-building events

We’ve mentioned it a fair bit this year, but the traditional team-building events, whilst still very much available, are now more health and safety conscious than ever. I can’t imagine that the scree-running, abseiling and pot-holing we did in Bryntysilio would feature very highly on the HSE-friendly to-do list, these days.

A much safer way of bonding the workforce is to get them into the kitchen, where even the majority of appliances, these days, are practical and safe. Well, I wouldn’t call some of the ingredients my wife cobbles together safe, but you know what I mean? Mm, I wonder if Lloyds TSB are thinking of running any team-building cookery courses?

And that leads me nicely into today’s topic…
…I was talking to James Coakes whilst portending another hat I wear and he mentioned that he’d organised a troupe off on a jolly as a works’ team building event to a restaurant. Standard fare, I thought. But then he happened to mention that it was also a cooking class in…wait for it…
chocolate!

Now, you all know that I’m a healthy eating lad, but my one Achilles Heel – and I think it’s to replace the beer since hip surgery last year – is chocolate. And we used to end up orienteering through fields of cows in a musty-smelling Welsh forest? I’m sorry, Wales, but you know that ‘fine Welsh mud’ that happy couple (obviously on Prozak) were washing off their bike wheels in your promo ad – you can keep it!

Anyway, I digress. This is how far this type of networking, company-socialising pastime has come. No longer is it down entirely to the individual cookery schools to try to snare the attention of people looking for cookery courses online, there are team-building companies incorporating them into their menu.

James’ company’s called the teambuilding company (funnily enough) and as well as the chocolate team-building cookery course he offers, there’s a Chinese affair, entitled Team Wok – and that’s the name of the company, not a slogan James or his associates have dreamed up – as well as Sumptuous Sushi, Cocktail-making (boy, did I used to think I was Tom Cruise in my bar-tender days…definitely more of a Bryan Brown character, these days?) and a Cuisine-Team event.  All but one of the Rocket Restaurants venues, host for the  lessons in how to make chocolate, is in London so if you can’t make the Nottingham restaurant, it’s a trip down to The Smoke, so your staff will at least feel like they’ve had a night out and a chance to glug some of the petty cash in London, as only the best staff does.

So, if you’re a company boss and not sure about how a weekend trekking in the Welsh Hills is going to go down with your staff, why not try cookery courses next time your planning to get your employees to bond?

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L’atelier des Chefs: the all-in-one corporate cooking course

It is so difficult finding suitable team building activities that will incorporate the capabilities of all of your troops whilst keeping them constantly motivated and delivering that sense of teamwork that is the essence of such an exercise.

One of the more popular ways of achieving this goal, that doesn’t involve your workforce having to traipse half way across the country already demotivated and in the doghouse with their other half because of the two nights you’ve planned for them doing outdoor pursuits, is the corporate cookery course.

L’atelier des Chefs, a London cookery school that has just opened up its second venue in St Paul’s, has become somewhat expert at organising just this type of hands-on, goal-oriented event. From the concept through to the end result, having worked as a team to get where they are, they know all about what it means to work together and have a bit of fun in the process. No standing up to your knees in a freezing cold river in the middle of Wales, here.

Both the Oxford Circus venue and the new St Paul’s cookery school offer flexibility in a location where space usually comes at a premium, the centre of London, and with contemporary kitchens and Michelin-trained chefs L’atelier des Chefs, whilst holding true to the ‘art of delicious, accessible food‘, have an uncommon view of what team-building is all about.

There are other cookery schools that offer corporate cookery courses, for sure, but the dedicated operations team that organise the events for the London venues not only offer spaces for 12-180 victims employees to work together, but they can also make the elements of the cookery courses bespoke to the specific team-building goals you’re aiming to achieve.

Whether you have would-be Tom Cruises looking to create the perfect company cocktail, are looking to send the guys and gals out to learn to cook for a seasonal event or even set departments head to head against each other in cook-off challenges, L’atelier des Chefs can tailor a menu to suit your needs.

Not only that, their West End venue can host your corporate networking event before taking the results of your labour into a private dining space to hone in on those potential relationships or even host a PR Event for the launch of a new product or if you have some hot off the press news you want to ‘big up’ as an announcement to your team or customer base.

If it all sounds too good to be true, check them out for yourselves. Access their site through our home page on cookerycourses.co.uk where you can sign up to follow them on facebook, receive their newsletter or contact them directly if you’ve already got the event in mind. Bon Apetit, tous les mondes. x

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Cookery school team with Selfridges in un-shellfish display

With the odd exception, whereby cookery school’s come to you, to develop your culinary prowess you have to not only find the cookery courses you want but also make your own way there to develop the art. This weekend gone, Leiths changed all that by taking their cookery school on the road with a lesson in environmental issues as well as the kitchen.

Selfridges Food Halls are in the throws of promoting sustainable fisheries and have tagged their campaign ‘Project Ocean’, which pretty much leaves nothing to the imagination – fair play. And it was to the Oxford Street store that Leiths bundled up their cookery utensils and left the relative comfort of their Wendell Road home in London to set up stall on the famous outlet’s vast food floor.

Fishing from sustainable sources is becoming a key world environmental issue, with one report only last week suggesting that, by 2050, we will have depleted 90% of the ocean’s edible fish if we don’t start taking our responsibilities to our submarinal friends more seriously. With this in mind, Louisa and Helene, two renowned chefs from the cookery school, set about demonstrating fish and shellfish recipes to highlight just what can be achieved in the kitchen using ocean-going creatures from controlled areas.

There were plenty of shoppers willing to taste the recipes and the girls even managed to get around and inspect the offerings from other traders displaying their wares in the famous outlet’s food hall. The highlights for many interested parties were the recipes produced by the two chefs. And, let’s face it, to learn to cook fish – and their shell-encrusted cousins – is an art in itself. Two minutes too much and it’s burnt and tasteless; a little underdone or using slightly out-of-date produce and your meal-time guests are less likely to remember the hors d’oeuvres than the hors-spittle.

But the girls, drawing upon all of their cookery course experience, pulled it off a treat, using fish recipes that incorporated trout, vegetables and a drop of vino blanc ,for shellfish lovers, a potted dish using rice, prawns (and their stock) and herbs to prove that there’s more to our pink little friends than a plastic fork, polystyrene tray and drowning their taste with vinegar.

So please act now to help sustain and grow the oceans’ rapidly-depleting livestock; come 2050 and I’m in my eightieth year, I’m darned sure I’ll be needing all the cod-liver oil I can get. I just hope that there’s still a few cod left to keep me mobile. Thanks.

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Just desserts for those brave enough to enter dessert competition

The competition for entry into the Mõvenpick Gourmet Dessert Chef is well under way and the deadline for your chance to be considered as Mõvenpick Gourmet Dessert Chef of the Year is fast approaching. Allan Pickett, the head chef at London’s Canary Wharf Plateau, who will be on the judging panel for the live cook off event alongside a whole host of the industry’s most illustrious names, is urging more budding chefs who are perhaps hiding their light under a bushel to come forward and risk showcasing their culinary prowess for the chance to win a cookery course extraordinaire and stay at Mõvenpick’s Swiss home.

Launched in association with the Craft Guild of Chefs, the competition is not just about raising a classic dessert from scratch but also to show the hospitality trade what it’s missing out on as almost four fifths of orders from pub and restaurant menus do not, at present, contain a dessert. With a three course meal constituting main, side and a choice of either starter or dessert, there is a very real sense within The Guild that the trade is missing a trick or two by not being positive about promoting the sweets available as a healthy, enjoyable alternative to the starter as part of any fixed three-course meal.

The closing date for entries to the competition is only a fortnight away (1st May) and whilst many, many UK cookery courses include programs and one-off cookery classes for desserts and patisseries, the second call, if you like, for competitors in this year’s competition would suggest that they perhaps have not had as many entrants as they would have anticipated.

It would seem that the high glitz and glamour of the brand and its website – it’s perhaps one of the funkiest, elegant websites I’ve ever seen and I research a lot of websites – may be putting people off entering. I’m almost tempted to sign up for a cookery course myself to learn how to make ice-cream using

  • 2 x 125ml tubs Smart Price Black Cherry yoghurt,
  • 1 x Double Elmlea Cream (284ml/½ pint), and
  • 2 heaped tea-spoons (20 mg) of Smart Price instant chocolate powder
    • total cost = less than a quid, serves two

– a Black Forest Gateaux meal in a glass! I’m sure there’s a market for that in an ice-cream, if only I knew the conversion from yoghurt to the frozen stuff, I’d be on my way.

I might just get my Ninja out and crush some ice with those ingredients and see how it turns out. And no pinching this cookerycourses.co.uk recipe, you guys! You read it here, first…

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Waitrose cookery courses using only the freshest ingredients

We all know the supermarkets renowned for their value ready-meals, such as Tesco or Asda or if you’re feeling flusher, for a little something extra special, Sainsburys or even Marks and Sparks, all of whom have pre-prepared meals to suit every mood. You can literally pick anything up, get home (pay for it first, AWT!) and bung it In the oven or microwave with very little effort or thought and, usually, in less than an hour, your meal is ready for you; however, there are other supermarkets gaining reputations for the food that actually goes into these prepared meals fresh, rather than the microwaveable end product.

The big-name supermarkets are all so well known that if you know your budget and your monthly menu you don’t even have to think twice about whizzing around their store or online to pick up your favourites and bung them in the freezer ready to be pinged. If, on the other hand, your are wanting to pick the ingredients yourself to attempt to learn to cook a meal you picked up from a recipe online or from watching a cookery show on television, then chefs in the know go to Waitrose. It is, if you believe their hype, the go-to supermarket for ingredients to cook from scratch; which is just as well as above their Finchley Road store in London, they run a cookery school in what can only be described as a vision of stainless sterility and a kitchen to absolutely die for, if that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat.

It would be little fun attending a cookery course if all of the ingredients had already been put together for you and all you had to do was decide which Smart Price or Value box you wanted to pick out of the freezer. Indeed, the four hour cookery classes that Waitrose host above the London store, hosted by chef James Campbell, covers three main courses, a veritable pleasant diversion from your usual two-and-a-half hour session learning to cook one of each starter, main and pud, as is the wont of many cookery courses out there at the minute, especially in the capital where time is money and rent and the busy professional wants to be able to knock up three courses in time to entertain the boss or clients straight from the orifice.

The cookery class itself takes on the classic format – demonstration first, then participation, then indulge in the resultant meal with an accompanying beverage, all set in a fun atmosphere with a bit of Wham or Duran Duran in the background to help proceedings along swiftly.

Waitrose do offer a variety of cookery courses, not solely this particular one, which was targeted at chefs of all capability; however, any chef above the basic-intermediate level may have this degree of skill under their belts already. Of course, the best, freshest ingredients are all supplied to make this class a little different from others out there, underlining the fact that Waitrose not only know how to source good quality food, but put it together to make a bally decent meal or three out of it, too.

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Muck in with Maunika at an Indian cookery class Bombay-style

Freelancer food writer and self-styled Indian cookery chef Maunika Gowardhan is taking her culinary expertise offline and wrapping it all up in a cookery course in London, far from her adopted home town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and a lot further away from Bombay, where she was born, raised and learned to cook using plentiful local ingredients and handed down recipes and techniques from her family.

Bombay offers one of India’s most diverse cross section of sub-continent styles, techniques and recipes and Maunika was fortunate enough to have the opportunity, with the assistance of her mother and grandmother, to indulge in many of the influences that give rise to the region’s reputation as a veritable melting pot of Asian delights.

It is this insight into the way that the many communities use the plethora of local and traded ingredients available in close proximity, and then blending those spices in their own unique way, that Maunika is hoping to share with the students in her one-off cookery course next month.

The cookery course is designed to be fun and interactive with Maunika very much inviting queries from the students who take advantage of this unique opportunity. As well as the memorable experience the cookery class itself promises to deliver, drawing upon over a decade of Maunika’s experience in sharing and preparing authentic Indian dishes, there will be the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labour both on the day and time and again at home with all of the cookery class menu on recipe cards that you can keep in a safe place at home ready to amaze and impress your friends and family when next you invite them around for a meal, which we’re sure you’ll be only too eager to do once you have experienced this very different, personal and traditional insight into Asian cookery with a twist.

So, if you want to know how to put all of the spices together from scratch and learn how each of the very distinctive tastes compliment or contradict another and also learn how to whip up the chutney dips and varies Indian breads so that you can justifiably call your curry, and your menu, your own, places are bookable online. The date is the evening of the 16th May, location Druid Street, London SE1. Full details at cookinacurry.co.uk.

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National Charity Launches Cookery Courses Aimed At Education Sector

The Schools Food Trust (SFT) has designed a series of low cost cookery courses aimed specifically at the education sector.

The SFT was established in 2005 and is a national charity and specialist advisor to the Government on matters relating to children’s food, school meals and related issues.

The aims of the SFT are to ensure that children receive the food education; cookery skills and balanced diet that they will need to live a healthy life and achieve their potential.

The series of one-day courses will include topics such as how to develop flexible and compliant menus and how to put the fun back into cooking and food.

Other subject areas will include engaging pupils and parents with healthy food; creative marketing of school meals and increasing the take up of free school meals.

A spokesman for the SFT explained that the courses will cover the key issues currently affecting school food, with the content developed from expertise that has been gained through working in partnership with numerous schools since 2005.

The SFT are confident that the low-cost courses will provide a great deal of practical help to those looking to increase the take up of school meals. Delegates should expect to leave with a number of ideas and actions that have been used effectively in schools throughout the country.

The SFT has recently published figures showing that the number of children choosing to eat school meals has grown for third successive year. However the majority of children still opt not to eat school meals.

The sessions will begin in the autumn with courses in Birmingham and London and prices starting from as little as £150. Further information is available online at www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk/howto

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BakingMad cookery course and cook books up for grabs

How are your baking skills? Could do with a top up? Have one of those bread-makers at home that you bought, used once, couldn’t be doing with the mess, thought about putting it on e-bay but seen there are a thousand other budding bread chefs like you beat you to it? Yeah, I? know where you’re coming from.

Well, here’s a chance to put all of that right. In conjunction with BBC Good Food, we have news about the chance for you to win a half-day cookery course learning how to turn dough into bread, not an hour and three quarters in the oven for it to turn out D’oh! Instead.

Not only is it an intense cookery class in everything to do with baking but the winner of the competition will be under the expert tutelage of Channel 4’s Eric Lanlard, he of BakingMad With Eric Lanlard fame.

Of the many cookery courses on offer in London, this one is perhaps one of the most renowned. Obviously, with eyes on customers giving it star ratings given the media spotlight surrounding his Cake Boy cookery school in Battersea, you are guaranteed to come away with the knowledge Eric imparts as you stroll through some of his favourite recipes and patisseries as well as the inherent experience of what it must feel like to bake on television. For what that’s worth.

As well as the half-day cookery course, the competition winner will take home the staple branded apron, everything that you have baked during the course of the cookery class and a handy BakingMad gift bag in which you can put the recipes you also win as part of the prize.

In order to celebrate the show’s return to the TV screens earlier this month, Eric’s giving away a prize a week. There is also a freebie to claim on his site plus the opportunity to win an Allison’s herb Garden and a separate competition to win one of five cook books he currently has on offer. The question for the cook book is simple enough: What is the name of Eric Lanlard’s Baking Mad With television show called? It’s all going on over there, I tell you.

You do need to sign up to access the competitions, but you will get plenty of recipes in your inbox and there are many on the site, ranging from Almond Cheesecake to Brioche made in a bread maker. For the intuitive, there are enough recipes on there to start a cookery class of your own, but I didn’t say that…

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A cookery course – in basic food hygiene

Historically, the first of April is not only April Fools Day, but also the first day of the new financial year. For all restaurants and cafés, hotels and pubs, in fact anywhere that serves food in London, this year will hail the beginning of a new initiative by the FSA, and we’re not talking by the Financial Standards Authority, rather the Food Standards Agency.

As anyone in the food industry who has learnt their trade via an official cookery course will attest, before you even put on an oven glove, you need to learn the strictest of regulations about learning to store, prepare, cook and serve food to the public. I obtained my Basic Hygiene Certificate through Leicester University – albeit indirectly through Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries – so that before I even learnt about particular Banks’s menus, I was fully aware of the science behind food hygiene.

The ‘Food Hygiene Rating Scheme’ that the FSA is launching in the capital will set a national standard, whereby anyone from around the country can enter a commercial premises, be it a cookery school, haute cuisine establishment or transport café, and ascertain that relevant food safety standards are being adhered to.

The new initiative, which replaces the ‘Scores on the Doors’ existing method, is a drive to cut down on the one million people who suffer from food poisoning every year in the UK (never knew my missus could reach that many!), bringing awareness to a larger section of the populace than currently have access to such critical safety guidelines.

So determined are the FSA to ensure that all businesses can incorporate the system, they are paying for the switch over to the new Food Hygiene Rating System across the Square Mile and are even setting aside a bespoke page on their website purely to service the endeavour.

Rather than rest on any laurels, it is hoped that all businesses who take part, from those that learn people to cook to established food industry businesses, will actively display their qualified status under the new scheme, once it has been earned and verified.

Once UK citizens start to recognise the new insignia, it is hoped that many unfamiliar or localised brands can gain national recognition, now that the standard covers a nationwide skills base, with all regions driving towards the same aim. There are often more reasons to attend a registered cookery course than just learning to cook – earning a nationally registered certificate of expertise and knowledge of general food hygiene is just one of the hidden benefits anyone considering a career in food should consider.

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US, The Med and two vegetarian – cookery courses, London

It is a strange fact of life, but some people do not eat meat, some through allergic or digestive reaction, but the majority through choice. And there are a lot more individuals choosing the carcass-free diet. As such, Leith’s of London are throwing two cookery courses next month to celebrate vegetarian cooking from either side of the Atlantic.

First up, we have the vegetarian cookery course from the North Americas, which will be hosted by Sarah Kearns and Marise Maddison. Given how huge the continent is and how many varied cultures they could have drawn upon to cobble this cookery course together, they have had to be brutal and cut much of the sub-culture dishes out. It will be a whistle-stop tour, indeed, all crammed into a four and a quarter hours over the lunchtime of Tuesday 17th April.

Kick off time for the cookery class is 10.15, but you can arrive up to half an hour beforehand. You will need an apron, or, if you want to spoil yourself with a new one for the occasion, Leith’s have them on sale in their shop, so no need to panic if you forget to pack your trusty old coverall. You may need to check with the cookery school what containers are required to take home any uneaten food in, if any.

An overview of the planned dishes for the cookery course Ojibwe Three Sisters Chowder, a native American dish, then we have other stop-offs with wild rice and cranberry salad from The Great Lakes, Big Apple sweet potato and carrot cake to top off nicely the greyhound tour of American cuisine.

The day after, Wednesday 18th April, we zip back this side of The Pond for a sun-soaked offering of vegetarian from The Mediterranean. Same time and place, and again Sarah and Marise take the reigns for another tour into vegetarian cooking, a little closer to home.

There are few other places in Europe where vegetables and fruits grow so big and plentiful and the girls incorporate a fair spread of hand-picked (literally) produce from vine, tree and bush to tempt us with. The menu utilises, in no particular order, red peppers and potatoes, pomegranate and pistachios and even caramelised Aubergine, again to complete a complete meal in one cookery course, drawing from vegetables, fruits and nuts of the continent.

Prices are £130 per cookery course and you can either book online for yourself or buy a gift for a friend, either veggie themselves or perhaps someone who never knows what to cook for their meat-free family. There are presently spaces available for both cookery courses at the London venue but, looking at the closer cookery classes on their schedule there are wait lists; full schedule and terms and conditions available from the Leith’s website.