L’atelier des Chefs – Spanish Masterclass

Posted on Friday, 7th December 2012

Cookery school L’atelier des Chefs run an impressive range of cookery classes including French classics, macaroon making, bread baking and knife skills, to name but a few. You can also choose by length of class starting from the “Cook, Eat and Run” classes (starting from £15 for 30 minutes) to masterclasses that last for several hours and cost up to £144.

L'atelier des Chefs

L’atelier des Chefs

The school operates out of two locations, Oxford Circus and St Paul’s, and it was to the latter that I headed to for the Spanish masterclass (£144). Head Chef was Neil Matthews who comes with an impressive CV, having worked at one-Michelin starred The Castle Hotel, two-Michelin starred Gidleigh Park with Michael Caines and Roux’s three-Michelin starred Waterside Inn. Neil also did a stint at the River Cottage organic farm with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall before joining L’atelier des Chefs at the beginning of 2012.

Head Chef Neil Matthews

Head Chef Neil Matthews

Classes at L’atelier are a shared cookery experience. We were broken up into two groups, with each group collectively cooking the same recipe. Responsibilities are divided up, so unlike classes at other cookery schools such as Waitrose Cookery School, Le Cordon Bleu, etc, where everyone works at their own station, you don’t get the complete experience of cooking each recipe in full. The positive to this is you get to cover more recipes in the limited amount of time, but the negative is you don’t get to cover all the steps that might make the dish complete.

The highlight of the class was Neil himself. Engaging, enthusiastic and effusive, he has a huge bank of knowledge so it was great to be able to pick his brains and to listen in as he shared some of his chefy tricks including a few knife skills.

Demo of chopping skills

Knife skills

The course ran from 10am to 2pm and was broken into two stages. The first covered fish stock for a seafood paella that we cooked up for lunch, plus all essential prep for the afternoon. The paella recipe called for the use of some piment d’espelette spice, a gorgeous chilli powder with a punchy kick.

Paella

Paella

In the afternoon we finished off a millefeuille of escalivada with salt baked mackerel and a balsamic glaze. The mackerel was excellent, exceptionally fresh and very sweet. It worked really well with the escalivada – vegetables oven roasted until black and brought together with olive oil, sherry vinegar, and for some added love, walnut oil. This was a really fabulous dish, albeit a little salty.

Salt baked mackerel millefeuille

Salt baked mackerel millefeuille

We also cooked meatballs, decadently deep-fried in olive oil for colour before being finished in a tomato sauce and topped with some tender cuttlefish. The dessert was churros with a crème patisserie filling and hot chocolate sauce.

Deep frying meatballs in olive oil

Deep frying meatballs in olive oil

The cookery school is equipped with induction hobs, perfect for drawing on instantaneous heat at the required temperature. The knives were stocked from the fabulous Henckels range and perfectly sharpened. Spacious and well stocked, the kitchen was well set up, the functional kind that I would like at home with perhaps a fridge freezer from Argos to complete the layout.

All the washing up was done by the pot wash, which was perfect as we piled up a lot of used equipment, in particularly spoons from all the tastings that we did. It sure made me wish for my own pot wash at home or a value for money dishwasher.

The class ran past 2pm, after which we sat down to polish off our remaining three dishes. The class at £144 is not cheap (although there are many cheaper options), and for the price, L’ateliers could have considered throwing in some free wine to go with our meal rather than charging for it. Nevertheless, it was a really fun day out and the type of experience that would be great for sharing with friends.


L’atelier des Chefs was a recent finalist in the Best Large Cookery School category in The British Cookery Awards announced on the 13 November 2012.

Website: http://www.atelierdeschefs.co.uk/