After only opening its doors two weeks ago for a series of pre-opening classes, The Grand Cookery School ran by head tutor Andy Dixon is already creating quite the buzz. The cookery school which is situated in The Grand Hotel in York is a purpose-built space with state-of-the art equipment and a number of work stations that allow for an immersive cookery experience. Guests are encouraged to interact through the open-plan layout of the space, and a large banquet table creates an inclusive environment for guests to chat and dine together throughout the class. On Sunday 10thFebruary I was invited along to the Taste of Francecookery class to experience the new cookery school in action.
On arrival, all the guests were invited to sit around the large banquet table, and morning refreshments including delicious homemade biscuits were passed around and hungrily munched through as we introduced ourselves to our fellow classmates. There was a nice mix of ages at the class, and it was great to see individuals wanting to tak part alongside couples and friends. I found that sitting around the banquet table created an inclusivity to the class which was great as everyone began to socialize and get to know each other. This ‘group spirit’ continued throughout the day, and after we had finished cooking each course, the whole group sat down together to eat and catch up over the challenges of the latest dish. After we had made our introductions and spoke excitedly about the prospect of the day’s class, Andy Dixon the head cookery tutor introduced himself and filled us in on the plans for the upcoming class.
TheTaste of Francecookery class at The Grand was a full day course where we created a ‘rough-puff’ pastry tart with a red onion marmalade filling, cooked a bavette steak in a bourguignon sauce with celeriac mash, and baked a Tonka bean crème brûlée from scratch. By creating three courses we were able to replicate a dinner party scenario and to leave the class with not only essential skills to recreate the dishes at home, but a range of top tips on how to spend less time in the kitchen and more time at the party! The class was well structured and Andy’s demonstrations throughout the day worked to clarify recipe queries and to show the class what we were aiming to achieve, with an added touch of professionalism of course.
As the class got underway and we arrived at our shiny new workstations, our first task was to create the crème brûlée that we would pop into the fridge until later. After creating a cream infused with Tonka beans, we mixed this with eggs and sugar before pouring it into our ramekins. Andy had previously shown us how to create bain-marie, so we then placed our brûlée’s into the oven and waited patiently for the magic to happen. Fast-Forward 25 minutes and 16 oven timers later, the Brûlée’s were refusing to set! But we did not admit defeat, Andy was on it and a back-up plan was devised in lightning speed for attempt No.2. We went and retrieved some of the leftover mixes we had created earlier, and with a few changes and an added egg yolk, we tried again. Fast-forward 25 minutes and … they had worked! So, after a wobbly start with the crème brûlée, we were back on track, and I was very much enjoying using all the shiny new equipment and fancy oven.
Our next task of the day was to create a ‘rough-puff’ pastry. After having a much-needed tea break with some delicious home-made scones, Andy gave us some top tips for creating our pastry and showed us the dough consistency that we were aiming for. Creating a ‘rough-puff’ pastry was a highlight of the class for me, and everyone revelled in their successes as spectacular tarts flew out of the oven with much pride. We filled the tarts with homemade red onion marmalade and then topped them with chopped olives, anchovies, and goat’s cheese. The tarts were a roaring success and they looked restaurant ready as we sat down as a class to enjoy our first course.
The next course we proceeded to cook was a bavette steak with a bourguinon sauce and celeriac mash. I followed the useful recipe pack that we had been given alongside the visual tips that I had learnt from Andy’s demonstration, and I began to crack on with the main course. I began by frying the steak and then let it rest uncovered (top tip), and then I started creating the bourgeon sauce. I created the sauce by sautéing button mushrooms and baby onions, then added and reducing down red wine and port (adding a few other secret ingredients along the way too!).
The sauce was warming and flavoursome-one I will definitely be recreating at home! The steak had sizzled in the pan, the bourgeon sauce had reduced, and my celeriac mash had fluffed up nicely. As we started to plate up our main course, murmurs of excitement went around the room as Master Chef 19’ was now in full swing. My mashed potato was smooth and creamy, the sauce was tasty, and my steak was perfectly medium rare. I couldn’t believe it, somehow Andy had transformed me into a cooking goddess!
The class was coming to an end, and we all sat down for the last time to speak about our experiences of the day as we dug into our crème brûlée. It may have been a wobbly start on Sunday with the crème brûlée, but with only a few minor creases to iron out before the official opening, The Grand Cookery School is very much on-track for success. I thoroughly enjoyed my Taste of France class and I was able to focus on my cooking skills for the whole day with an array of professional support on hand for any questions I had. Andy was knowledgeable and quick on his feet if there was a complication, and the whole team’s optimism and enthusiasm created a fun learning environment that was full of laughter, thrills, and a few spills. Taking a class at The Grand Cookery School is an opportunity not to be missed, and I will be revelling in the skills I have learnt and the memories I have made for many weeks to come.
Officially open from March 2019.
York Talks would like to thank Andy Dixon and all the team at The Grand Cookery School for a fabulous class.
This material is not to be copied, cited or reproduced without the prior permission of York Talks.