L’Atelier des Chefs has two branches in London so far, near St. Paul’s and Oxford Circus. The cooking school welcomes anyone wanting to learn from a professional chef how to cook from scratch, to improve skills or to make a meal with a partner or friends.
Cuisine: They run baking, pastry, and cooking classes of al sorts, from Italian pasta, Thai cuisine, through sushi to classical French. Here is a full list. I participated with a friend on the French cooking class. We prepared a four-course festive dinner menu including one canapé and the highly popular dessert. A British accent on the Italian panettone.
Chef: Neil Matthews, the head chef at the St Paul’s branch of L’Atelier des Chefs in London, is a friendly chap (to use the British expression for a great guy). His off-beat presentation created a vibrant atmosphere at the sterile chef’s room made of steel, glass and tiles. Neil readily supplied our by an aperitif happily-tuned minds with practical tips of not how to not avoid a hangover, but how to make the the kitchen processes easier. We learned how to grate a coarse salt with the side of a knife, to make the perfect blinis, and anything we cooked looking better on the plate. Our dishes appeared and tasted like from a gourmet restaurant.
We started with a seemingly simple canapé. Making Blinis with smoked salmon and crème fraiche might sound easy. Just get a pack of pre-made blinis from your local supermarket, a cup of seasoned crème fraiche, smoked salmon and assemble it all together. But getting most of your food pre-made, aside from the negative health impact of most processed foods, takes almost all control over the result. Your preferred taste and thus pleasure from the dish can be enhanced if you make fresh blinis from scratch and blend your own sauce. The recipe is on their website. What was new to me was getting very creative with the presentation – my snail (or a steam boat ??) interpretation symbolises the fun we had cooking at L’Atelier des Chefs.
Cooking classes inspire to buy handy kitchen gadgets
The second recipe for Caramelised goats’ cheese salad with candied walnuts gave me an incentive to buy two new gadgets. There are never enough helpful little things in one’s kitchen, right? Men love gadgets too, an assurance for a harmonious kitchen relationship. I got a digital thermometer that one can stick into anything from sizzling oil to a juicy steak to check the right temperature. This is the scientific trick to get the steak cooked just right. There is a helpful advice on the correct cooking temperatures for various meat and seafood at What’s cooking America website (just convert the degrees Farenheit).
At L’Atelier des Chefs we used the thermometer for walnuts. First, when cooked in water with sugar and later when fried in the sunflower oil. Checking the temperature of the liquids prevented overcooking as well as over-frying it, so the candied walnuts were perfectly crisp. The caramelised walnuts taste just so much better with goat’s cheese than the raw nuts.
Second, after baking the cheese you can make it look more interesting with the gas fire as we did (pictured below). Beware pointing it anywhere else than directly on the top of the cheese since you probably do not want the wooden trophy from the trip to Africa or your precious oak table getting burned. It can also be used on raw fish to obtain smoky flavour.
The main course required a more complex preparation. The Duck with foie gras, poached pear, celeriac and vanilla had a number of stages. Each part needed to be prepared separately. Pan roasting the duck, frying the fatty foie gras, soaking the pear in a hot liquor bath and blending the cooked celeriac into a purée requires good planning so you get everything on the plate in the perfect temperature. Getting it right either requires a couple of cooks helping the chef or pre-heating an oven to keep things warm while preparing the rest. The celeriac purée was mine and my friend’s most preferred feature on this plate. It can be used with various dishes or in a vegetarian meal in its own merit.
The dessert was inspired by Italy and reinterpreted into a British delicacy. The Panettone bread and butter pudding with clotted cream was superb. We learned how presentation can make something like an unattractive bread pudding make look fabulous. We carved round shapes out of the store-bought panettone (I’d prefer making our own and serve it just as it is) with the help of baking forms and put all ingredients into small pots. All topped with a crumble.
I can highly recommend L’Atelier des Chefs cooking school in London to anyone craving improvement of their cooking skills or just wanting to do something different with a friend, spouse or date. They offer white and red wines so you can select the perfect wine for each dish and sip yourself through the class. A dizzying fun!
L’Atelier des Chefs St. Paul’s: 10 Foster Lane London EC2V 6HR
+44 207 796 0110