Today sees the launch of The Cookery School at The Grand, York. When it comes to cooking, I need all the help I can get so I jumped at the chance to try out one of the classes ahead of today’s launch. The Grand is York’s landmark 5-star hotel and I love any opportunity to hotfoot it there.
Walking past the bowler-hatted doorman into the magnificent Edwardian building with its opulent décor always feels like a very glamorous experience. As well as an elegant cocktail bar and luxury spa, the hotel boasts two destination restaurants and has now opened a cookery school to add to its foodie credentials.
Housed in the basement of the hotel, The Cookery School at The Grand is a seriously impressive, state-of-the-art set up. It’s a large open-plan space with 16 workstations, each equipped with an induction hob, oven and professional equipment. At the front, there is a demonstration area surrounded by bar-stool seating and to the side is a glass-fronted banqueting room for sampling the finished dishes. It all looks incredibly sleek and modern with copper pendant lighting, super-stylish blue geometric tiles, marble worktops and plywood cabinets.
The Cookery School will be offering a whopping 50 different classes including full day, half day and evening options.
Looking through the choices, there seems to be an emphasis on teaching classics and celebrating Yorkshire’s finest cuisine with classes such as ‘Seasonal Yorkshire’, ‘Roast & Yorkshires’, ‘Proper Yorkshire Cream Tea’, ‘Proper Pies’, ‘Perfect Pastry’, ‘Beef Wellington’, ‘Dinner Party Secrets’ and ‘Breadmaking’ to name a few.
I was invited to try out the ‘Perfect Steak’ evening class.
I’ve never been to a cookery school before, which will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has ever tasted my cooking! As such, I was slightly apprehensive as to what to expect and also a tad uncertain as to how I’d fare with my very basic/non-existent cooking skills. However, I needn’t have worried because right from the start, I was put at ease by the friendly chefs running the class and the tone was set for a really fun, relaxed evening.
Donning my apron and being assigned to my own personal workstation, I felt like I was in an episode of MasterChef or Bake-off. To start with, we all sat around the demonstration area where the head tutor, Andrew Dixon, explained that he would be teaching us how to cook the perfect ribeye steak, triple cooked chips, griddled portobello mushrooms and cherry vine tomatoes. Wow, the meal of dreams. This was going to be a steep learning curve for me!
Andrew began by demonstrating how to prepare the potatoes into chips and then how to do the first cook of the chips in boiling salted water. I found Andrew’s teaching style really engaging and easy to follow. He clearly is very passionate and enthusiastic about cooking which was infectious. I was excited to get cracking and we headed to our workstations to recreate what we’d just been shown. The chefs walked around whilst we were cooking, providing lots of encouragement and the odd helping hand where needed.
It was great that the workstations were grouped into islands of four because it made the class a really sociable experience cooking alongside other people.
After part-cooking the chips, we then returned to the demonstration area and were shown the next steps. I liked the way the class was structured into stages rather than one long demonstration of the full recipe. There was a lot of detail to take in so breaking it down into manageable chunks worked really well.
Back at our workstations, it was time to cook the chips for the second time. This was done by heating a wok filled with olive oil to a temperature of 130°C and briefly frying the previously boiled chips. We’d been given a Thermapen thermometer to check that the oil was just the right temperature before the chips were added.
Andrew explained that being precise with frying temperatures is the key to making triple-cooked chips.
Then it was onto the portobello mushrooms and cherry vine tomatoes which we seasoned and griddled, turning at 90 degrees to get a lovely criss-cross pattern.
The final demonstration was where the magic happens – how to cook the perfect steak and finish off the chips. Andrew was full of fascinating tips and it was these professional secrets which made all the difference. And they weren’t just insights that applied to cook a steak and chips.
Andrew described how he wants to teach fundamental skills which are transferrable to cooking in general rather than just how to replicate one recipe. Basically, he was turning me into a culinary whizz!
We were each given a beautiful, thick cut of Yorkshire rib eye steak. Now, I’ve never, up to this point, had a good experience with cooking a steak. I always manage to overcook it to the point of incineration and it ends up as tough as old boots.
One of the best tips I learnt in the class was to use the trusty Thermapen to monitor the temperature of the steak whilst it’s cooking and take the meat out of the pan the moment it hits the required temperature.
The required temperature varies according to how you like your steak done – medium-cooked is 45°C for example. Using this method, I can honestly say for the first time ever I managed to cook a steak perfectly. I couldn’t believe it! Focusing on the temperature took all the guesswork out of how long to cook it for and led to an amazingly tender, juicy result.
Whilst the steak was left to rest (another top tip – leave it uncovered to stop it overcooking with the trapped heat), we set about doing the third and final cook of the chips. This involved frying them again but this time at a much higher temperature of 180°C. Minutes later they were done and I’d only gone and produced the holy grail of chips!
I’ve never made my own chips before, let alone triple-cooked ones, but I was really surprised just how easy they were to do when you know how. The whole process of cooking the chips took under 30 minutes, from peeling the potatoes to serving the finished chunky wonders.
All that was left to do was to quickly rewarm the steak, mushrooms and tomatoes in the hot griddle pan and then ta-da, it was ready to serve. Everyone sat around The Cookery School’s large banqueting table to enjoy the fruits of their labour and marvel at their culinary masterpieces.
I cannot recommend The Cookery School at The Grand highly enough. I learnt so much and was really amazed by what I’d achieved. From going into the class with very little confidence about my skills in the kitchen, I came away with a new enthusiasm for cooking and feeling like I could be on the next MasterChef! It was a fun, sociable experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Right, now where’s that MasterChef application form?
The evening classes cost £55 per person. For a 2-hour cooking tuition in a state-of-the-art cooking school and with a delicious meal at the end, this seems exceptionally good value for money. I will certainly be back to try out some of the other classes.
Thank you to The Cookery School at The Grand, York for inviting me to attend the ‘Perfect Steak’ class in exchange for an honest review.
To find out more and to book a cookery class, click here www.thegrandyork.co.uk/cookery-school.