There is a real buzz around The Cooking School these days. Tim Worsnop pulled on his apron and joined in the fun
I’VE heard it on television so many times I suppose its become a little cliched.
But the moment Matthew Benson-Smith, principal chef tutor at The Cooking School, Dean Clough peered over my shoulder and said “looks good chef” was a moment I will always remember.
Not the “looks good” bit because at the time what was bubbling on top of the pan hid a darker secret below. No the “chef” bit.
I had joined Matthew and his team for an all-day cookery masterclass that had captured the imagination.
Indeed, in the time the school has been operating this was the first sell-out audience. And based on that, another date has subsequently sold out with only a few precious places remaining on a third.
The reason for all the interest? We were being taught the secrets of Gujurati cooking by the owners of a Bradford vegetarian restaurant that is punching above its weight and has the distinction of being Gordon Ramsay’s favourite Indian.
In gastronomic circles Prashad has become something of a revered name since it made it to the final of TVs Ramsay’s Best Restaurant.
It didn’t win, but the publicity that was generated ensured Prashad would have a never ending stream of customers through its doors in Horton Grange Road, Bradford 7 desperate to find out what all the fuss was about.
That two people had travelled hundreds of miles from Gloucester and Northampton respectively to attend this course bore this out.
On TV, mother and son team Kaushy and Bobby Patel won everyone over with their charm, and a belief that what they are trying to achieve is special.
Now here they were ready to impart those cooking secrets to 25 eager amateurs. And just to spice things up even more, they and us would be observed by Simon Gueller the Michelin-starred head chef of Ilkley’s famous Box Tree restaurant who was there to learn more about the Cooking School. Imagine! It was while I was self-employed that I developed a love of cooking and barring the odd mishap along the way - a Chinese lemon chicken dish springs to mind - I’d like to think I’ve served up some half decent food to my friends and family. Like a lot of men I start with a cook book but tend to busk my way through the rest.
My wife calls it flamboyant. In truth there is a little laziness and lack of concentration involved.
On Saturday, however, my views of cooking changed and while it will not stop me experimenting, what I learned means in future I’ll pay much more attention to recipes and the way a dish is constructed.
Attention to detail is the key to producing top quality food and while everyone on the course had experience to a greater or lesser degree, it was easy to pick out the superiority of what Kaushy produced compared to our offerings.
The course involved making four different elements of a typical Gujurati meal, vegetable pakoras and mint sauce; chick pea curry (or Chole as it is called in India) with Jeera rice and puri (little puff balls of deep fried chappati flour).
First we watched a practical demonstration, picking out the fiddly bits with the help of a strategically placed camera that projected the action onto a wide screen television.
Then we went back to our individual stations to replicate, as best we could, what we had seen.
It was hardly Masterchef, but there was a keeness to do well.
Not so much competition, more the hope of a moral boosting nod of approval from Kaushy, Bobby, Matthew or even Simon. Cooking is after all about impressing people.
The Cooking School is an establishment Halifax, should be very proud to have. It is a resgistered charity with the proceeds of these courses going towards food education in schools across Britain.
It was this element I was told later that had persuaded Kaushy and Bobby to give over their limited time.
The set up is impressive, the school kitted out with the best equipment and staffed by a bunch of dedicated people who, move unseen in the background bringing ingredients to the workspaces and if you are lucky, helping with washing up too.
The School intends to run more and more courses covering all aspects of cuisine and food preparation. Several are already planned for later in the year including two new ones with Prashad.
So what about my efforts?
Well apart from slightly overdone rice (that never happens at home), I was rather pleased with myself and off I went into the tea-time heat of a beautiful Saturday laden down with takeaway cartons that would keep us in meals for a day or two.
“Chef”. It has a nice ring to it. But for now I’ll stick to the day job.
l The following courses have places available.
July 16: Made in Yorkshire (9.30am to 3.30pm). Learn how to make the perfect summer pudding.
July 22: Half day course Passionate About Pastry will feature steak and ale pie and glazed summer tart.
August 26: Secrets of Prashad (as featured above).
More information on The Cooking School on 01422 383192 or at www.thecookingschool.co.uk