Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Non-Expert Cookery School Survival Kit

School's out.

I've finished the intermediate term at Leiths. There've been highs-lows-sideways-twists-topsy-turvy-turns and I've loved every minute.

The advanced term kicks off on 15th April. In the meantime I thought I'd offer a little advice to anyone who, like me, starts cookery school and doesn't have a clue what they're letting themselves in for. Repeat after me: Yes you can cook and you're not crazy for doing this. 

1. Make lots of mistakes

I thought I could cook. Then in the school kitchen things started to go a little haywire. I developed an uncanny knack of over-cooking pasta, ruining poached eggs, burning toast. While spluttering to my teacher I can cook, honest...

But then there're days when it all goes right and you catch yourself fist pumping. Be discrete.

2. Be nice to the other kids

More than likely they're feeling just the same as you. They're the ones who'll pick you up when your inability to cook pasta keeps you awake at night.

3. Learn to love butter, salt and cream

That is all.

4. Make new friends

Like your knives - beautiful knives that slice through meat like butter. You'll wonder how you ever lived without them. You may also develop severe protectiveness syndrome - no one touches them but you.

5. Size definitely matters

Forget what you thought constitutes a reasonably sized dinner. Soon you'll think nothing of eating a full treacle sponge by yourself. You made it after all didn't you? Important to taste these things. You are now the Very Hungry Cookery Student. Be proud of it. 

6. Meals on wheels/Tubes (Or substitute bus, train, bike. Well maybe not bike, that could be dangerous)

While eating aforementioned treacle sponge on the Tube. From a plastic bag. With your fingers. Sticky fingers. It's important to develop a thick skin and ignore the looks of awe disgust from your fellow passengers. They're probably just annoyed the Tube's delayed again. Nothing to do with you. Carry on.

7. Watch out for Cayenne pepper 

It's a funny thing having your teachers rate your food. After each dish is completed we shout SERVICE and then carry on washing up pretending you're not nervous waiting for the tasting. When you get it right that's a great feeling. But then there're times when it's a painful torture. Like the day of the Cayenne Pepper Souffle. Watch out for that little red pepper, it's a sneaky customer. And there was me thinking I was the bee's knees and cat's pajamas all rolled into one. Sigh.

8. Let me Google that for you

There's a whole new vocabulary to learn. If in doubt, smile and nod. Then have a sneaky look on Google to see exactly what DuBarry is. Clue: it's a different type of choux. I keep a little list and look them up every day. By week 10 I'd got over myself and realised the best way is to ask questions.

9. Talk the talk

After a while the mish-mash clatter of new words becomes familiar.  Is there anything better than saying chiffonademirepoix, nappe and concasser all in one sentence?  The sentence won't make sense but you'll feel pretty cool.

10. Enjoy it

Cookery school is like being in a bubble where the only things that matters are food and getting it served on time. It's the safest place you'll be and it's OK to get things wrong. Savour every second. Soon it'll be time to go back to the real world.

If all else fails, remember, it's the only time in your life you'll get to wear this fetching ensemble.

Here's the money shot. Oh yes. 

A special thank you to Steffi for her photos. Her beautiful blog is here.

What happens in cookery school stays in cookery school, but you can have a little look just because it's you: 

Intermediate Term at Leiths
Week One in Leiths: The good, the spilled and the ugly (woodcock)
Week Two in Leiths: Edible clouds and fascinating fish
Week Three in Leiths: The Very Hungry Cookery Student
Week Four in Leiths: Meringues gone wild and ovens behaving badly
Week Five in Leiths: Confessions of a cookery student


  1. Am sooooooo jealous! Sounds fab :-)

    1. Thanks Canapé Queen! Having a blast :-)

  2. I'm thinking of doing a one day cookery course at leiths. Would you recommend it?

  3. Hi Nurse Polly, thanks for your comment. I would absolutely recommend Leiths! I'm having a brilliant time there and learning so much every day. There are links on the post above which give more detail on my first term there. The teachers are amazing. They also do short courses too. Let me know if you decide to go! Laoise

  4. You are so lucky! It sounds like brilliant fun despite the hard work. Best of luck with the rest of it.

  5. Thanks Annie! I remind myself I'm lucky to be doing this every day :-) Hard work but definintely worth it! Thanks for your lovely comment.