The Grand Cookery School, York – Review
The Grand Cookery School, York
by Roger Crow / @RogerCrow
When I’m invited to attend The Grand Cookery School’s first birthday, I don’t need to think twice. A few years earlier, my partner and I enjoyed an exquisite meal at The Grand, one of York’s finest restaurants. When we return, the lure of an in-depth demonstration from Head Chef Andrew Dixon (pictured above) is too good to resist.
I’ve long loved cooking, but hampered by a small kitchen and a broken cooker at home that would need a NASA expert to fix, the sight of the Cookery School’s array of ovens and kit is like a dream come true. It helps that Andrew is the perfect tutor, even if the array of nibbles he kept placing in front of us is so tempting there’s a serious danger of over indulgence before we’ve cooked a thing.
I’ve never prepared beef Wellington and “ultimate loaded potato skins”, but after our expert demonstration of both, I’m sure anything is possible.
And it’s not long before Rachel and I are scooping out jacket potatoes, chopping red onion (in a way that won’t lead to tears), packing in Savoy cabbage, crème fraîche, horseradish, and coming to terms with that dream oven. While the wine flows, we chat to the other fellow classmates, and it’s reassuring to see that most are in the same boat. What transpires is one of the most enjoyable evenings we’ve had in many a moon.
With the loaded spuds in the oven, properly seasoned, with loads of grated cheddar, we get started on the Wellington. While fiddling with the extractor fan and coming to terms with that dream hob, it’s time to seal an impressive hunk of beef. Fillet steak to be exact.
The evening is accompanied by a playlist of eighties classics, which adds to the fun element. I can only imagine how well a cookery class like this would work as a team-building exercise, or for singletons wanting to meet fellow gastronauts and have a laugh in the process.
As the wine flows, there are giggles aplenty as we amateurs try and recall Andrew’s expert instructions. There’s none of that Ramsay-style outrage synonymous with high pressure cooking shows. The atmosphere here is pure fun, and the fact Rachel gets to cook a vegetable Wellington means she doesn’t feel out of the loop.
Thankfully most of the prep has been done for us, which is half the battle. Wrapping tarragon pancakes around the chicken mousse-covered beef is a hugely engaging process, and before long I’ve even created that pastry lattice for the top of my masterpiece.
With an egg wash on the beef Wellington, while that’s in the oven we create the port wine sauce. Fried shallots, chicken stock, a sprig of thyme, garlic, red wine and ruby port and a lot of reduction turns the deglazed pan into a bubbling liquid for what turns out to be one of the best meals of recent years. With the aid of a thermometer, I check the core of the beef, and it’s pretty perfect.
With the filled jacket potatoes, beef Wellington and port wine sauce, every mouthful is incredible. Which sounds pretty arrogant considering I cooked it, but after years of reviewing restaurants, that USP factor is a must for any foodie who wants to try something different.
You obviously get out of life what you put in, and that extra hard work is in every mouthful. The fact we all get to sit down after the cookery session and talk about the night is such a wonderful communal experience, I’d recommend it to anyone.
The creamy dessert (orange panna cotta, orange and almond salad) is an added bonus, especially as it’s been prepared for us. I’m just glad I still have enough room for it.
The fact Rachel and I finally get to cook together after 15 years is one of those experiences we’ll not forget in a hurry. Great food, terrific instruction and wonderful facilities make this a must for those who are either expert chefs or amateurs who want to learn more than just spag bol. Neither of us would need much persuading in doing the whole thing again. A genuinely Grand experience.
The Grand Cookery School, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GD
Price varies depending on class, starting from £50