‘I completely forgot to put the garlic in, Chef.’
‘Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter.’ said chef Jason Palin. ‘This is a cookery class all about cooking together and having fun’
Well, you wouldn’t hear that exchange in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen would you? But Food Sorcery’s Head Chef Jason is a patient and forgiving soul, which is fortunate when you consider that he spends his working life watching amateurs like me mangle the recipes at his cookery classes that he has so deftly demonstrated only minutes earlier.
And I do mean deft. At Food Sorcery you learn the true meaning of ‘chop finely’ as Jason reduces onion and mushrooms to fine dust with one hand, tosses perfectly round tacos in the pan with the other and drops the scraps into the bin at his feet with a third. (Ok, he didn’t have three hands. More like six.)
Then it was our turn to be cooking together. There’s something about tying on aprons with a bunch of friends and gathering around the work stations that takes you back to primary school. Except that primary school didn’t feature hot pans and sharp knives and we’re not making plasticine dinosaurs, we’re making Wild Mushroom Tacos with Onions and Garlic, followed by Teriyaki Cod with soba noodles and pak choi.
But there’s the same laughter and backchat, the same buzz at being let loose to try our hands at something new – because although most of us reckon we can cook, this is not cooking as most of us know it, it’s a fun friendly cookery class.
There are the same personalities too: the methodical one who concentrates and gets it right; the competitive one sneaking a peek at his neighbours’ progress; the one who can’t find the pak choi; the one who stole the pak choi; and the one who kicks back with a beer and just enjoys the vibe.
Through it all, Jason is a constant, calming presence. Ramsay would be circling at 10,000 ft by now but Jason quietly keeps everyone on track, checking that we’ve not confused the soy sauce with the oyster sauce, rescuing the fish that is searing a little too quickly and reassuring us that it’s not too late to add the garlic.
And at the end of it all, we have produced an impressive dinner. Somewhat misshapen in some areas, it’s true – my tacos look more like inkblot tests than the uniform circles illustrated by Jason – but they taste wonderful.
While we eat our starter, Food Sorcery’s team of elves emerge silently from the woodwork and return the work stations to a state of gleaming preparedness so that the whole process can be repeated for the main course. Again, some of the fish isn’t quite as neatly presented as Jason’s demo piece but hey – he’s been doing it for 37 years. And it tastes just as good.
Cooking Together is a very different way of doing dinner with friends – you’ll laugh a lot, you’ll learn quite a lot, maybe you’ll be inspired to cook like that at home (tho probably not) but you will certainly acquire a huge respect for the Jasons of this world who can produce delicious, exquisitely presented food, apparently without effort.
And I’m definitely going to sign up for the Knife Skills course. I want to be able to reduce onions to dust in seconds too and it’s on the list as things to do in Manchester.
Written by JANE FICKLING