Posted on Thursday, 11th November 2010
Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview evening at the new Waitrose cookery where we were treated to a macaroon masterclass. The school opened this Monday and is situated above the Waitrose John Barnes branch on Finchley Road.
The cookery school is state of the art. No expense was spared to fit it out and it has those sleek white lines that are the trademark look of all the Waitrose supermarkets. I was very impressed. It’s spacious and comfortable and far classier than my days spent in the kitchens at Westminster Kingsway Cookery College.
The teachers are from quality stock as well. Of the seven chefs that man teaching duties, four have worked at Michelin restaurants. Take James Campbell, the head pastry chef who guided us through the macaroon making. In a career that spans 20 years, he achieved the position of head pastry chef for Gary Rhodes at age 24 and has spent time in five different Michelin restaurants.
We applied the Italian meringue method to making the macaroons whereby we heated the sugar syrup to 114 degrees before adding it to the egg whites whilst they were being whisked. We then folded the beaten eggs whites into a mixture of icing sugar, ground almonds and more egg whites. Baked for 12 minutes at 145 degrees, we filled them with a mandarin flavoured centre once they cooled. Surprisingly, my macaroons turned out pretty good. Check out my pic.
We also got to sample some of James’ eggnog and mulled wine macaroons. A dozen of these tasty treats later – not to mention that we were also plied with a couple of cocktails – and I was well and truly on a sugar high
I really enjoyed the masterclass. Not only was James on hand to teach, but most of the other chefs from the Waitrose Cookery School were around to help out during the class. They were all lovely, in that Waitrose/John Lewis ‘we are all about customer service’ kind of way. I have no doubt that each and every one of the chefs was hand picked for their friendly, amenable and personable manner. It would be hard to imagine walking away from one of the cookery sessions and not feel well looked after.
The classes are pricey though. A one day course which runs from 9.30am to 4.30pm costs £175, and a half day course (9.30am to 2pm or 5.30pm to 9pm) costs £105. Prices include all the ingredients and wine. For a range of their cookery sessions check out the Waitrose cookery school website.