After 20 (plus) years in the food & drink business and having set up over twenty pubs, bars and restaurants between London and Cheshire, you’d have thought I would have been a fairly decent cook by now… but no. I love food – serving it and of course eating it (probably a little too much) – but when it comes to actually putting pan to stove, I have always had the good sense to leave that to the professionals.
And now I find myself (at the age of forty plus) with a huge menu-writing ability, yet no actual means of producing any (or most) of the dishes myself.
Having worked in the industry for most of my life, most of my sustenance has come from either the venues I have helped create, or dining out under the ‘requirement ‘ (guise) of extensive market research!
But things are about to change. I recently met Lisa Warnes, owner of The Cheshire School of Cookery in Altrincham and her right hand man, and super star resident chef Sam Elliott.
This cookery school is lovely! Its state of the art and very well laid out – with space for up to 16 people to attend any of their fabulous courses (more for a private hire, see last paragraph).
I attended a Thai course here last year with May (owner of well-renowned Thai restaurant Chilli Banana in Wilmslow) which I thoroughly enjoyed (see my blog ‘WLC goes THAI with The Cheshire Cookery School’), so when Lisa asked if I could attend the recent ‘Cook the Perfect Steak’ course, I jumped at the chance.
Many of Lisa and Sam’s courses are held on week-day evenings so most of us are able to attend (6.30pm till 9.30pm), and there is always the opportunity to sit down with your fellow-foodies and enjoy the fruits of your labour, together.
This was Sam’s course (they do invite guest chefs, like May from Chill Banana and even über-famous Sunday Brunch star Simon Rimmer) and he tells me one of his favourites.
The format is relaxed and informative, with Sam demonstrating dishes and sauces at his station in front, and then everyone returning to their own individual stations to cook under their own steam – under Sam’s constant supervision of course.
We started with chunky chips, pan-fried in oil and butter to colour and then simmered in chicken stock for added flavour and richness. They were finished in the oven to crisp-up, and I have to say I don’t think I will ever cook chips at home any other way.
Next it was time to prepare the classic garnish, slow roast tomato, garlic mushroom. The Cheshire Cookery School only give you the very best ingredients to work with and the simple garnish was no exception; a massive field mushroom (peeled) and half a coeur de boeuf tomato with slices of garlic laid on top and into the oven along with our chunky chips.
Sam then showed us how to make a proper peppercorn sauce from scratch, using proper veal stock. I had never made a proper sauce using real stock before so it was such an enlightenment for me, and so much simpler than I ever imagined (I think these Chefs have been blinding me with science for years to be honest!).
When that was underway (a proper peppercorn sauce takes well over half an hour) we made a gorgeous Café de Paris butter, again from scratch, and then a classic béarnaise sauce.
By 9ish, it was time to cook the steaks. Sam only uses Althams for his steak supplies and the quality speaks for itself. Proper meat producers and your local butcher offer a much superior product to any supermarket, and its so worth the investment, especially for a special occasion.
With our steaks cooked (rare of course) and served three ways (with Café de Paris butter, peppercorn sauce and classic béarnaise) plus our garnish and our dreamy chunky chips cooked in chicken stock, it was time to dine together and savour every mouthful, perfectly accompanied by some hearty red wine. It was all absolutely delicious – and we were all suitably impressed with our efforts.
Thank you once again Lisa and Sam, my skills are definitely improving and if I could just sneak in on the up-coming Simon Rimmer course (I’ll do the washing up), I’d be very grateful!
Find out more about The Cheshire Cookery School HERE
The Cheshire Cookery School is an inspiring place for team bonding events. Whether you want to create a sense of team spirit, reward your employees for a job well done, or enjoy a memorable board meeting.
Every event we host for businesses is tailored to their exact needs: where some companies prefer a competitive edge to their event, others like a more relaxed approached. The friendly management team and chefs at the cookery school develop menus, demonstrations and classes designed to make your event fun and interesting.
Our corporate cookery classes are fun and highly sociable events, and the demonstrations are easy to follow. People come away not only having learned new skills, but also with a real feeling of camaraderie for their fellow chefs-in-training.
Take a break from the usual round of sandwiches at your next meeting. Our chefs are a lively bunch who will demonstrate easy-to-follow recipes, and help you create a tasty, satisfying lunch. This is a refreshingly different way to energise people for the afternoon stage of your meeting.
Several distinct spaces make up The Cheshire Cookery School: The Cookery School itself, the Demonstration Room, the Wine Tasting Room, and the Dining Room. While you enjoy your meeting or team bonding session, you have exclusive use of all these areas and we can tailor your event to use any, or all, of the rooms.