Sometimes, I think that everything that could have possibly been invented in this world has already been created. Then other times I think that the opportunities are just endless, today was one of those days. My friend Isabel invited me to a class at L'atelier Des Chefs, which literally translates to the workshop of chefs. It was a treat for me but I understand that the lesson was very reasonably priced.
I thought that we would work as a pair to cook a meal, drop the grub into a container and head home but it was actually a lot more interactive than that and in fact, a lot more fun than I expected. The concept is so simple yet so brilliant and in fact, I will suggest my own ideas for eking more revenue out of such a business.
The LDC (my name for the L'atelier) building itself consisted of two floors and three or four kitchens so that they can host more than one session at a time. On arrival Isabel and I immediately struck up a where-are-you-from conversation with a certain pair of gentlemen, Raymond and Andrew; of course this is one of my favorite topics of discussion as I love talking about Malawi.
Both Raymond and Andrew were from Scotland, both very easy-going and charming especially Raymond who was quick to offer up his family's jet and castle, if we wanted to visit Scotland - yeah, right - and I'm the Queen of Sheba incarnate. As we enjoyed chatting with them we were immediately drawn to the same table when we were called down to our kitchen. Our chef, introduced himself then immediately went into a demonstration of the dishes we would be preparing. He was very professional, very friendly and he managed the sizeable class with apparent ease.
We cooked a two-course meal in one hour as a team of six: me, Isabel, our two Scottish friends, Morris and Marie (a couple that have been married for 38 years and got the lesson as gift from their generous daughters - they were so obviously still enamored with each other that Ray asked if they were on a date). The main course was Sea Bream and Ratatouille Provencal followed by cake for dessert - always a good choice.
We divvied up the tasks but Raymond commented that I was rather bossy when I arranged all the precut veg for Morris so that it was in the order he would need it. It does take one to know one, however, if Raymond had bothered to find out, this was Morris' first time to cook ever as Marie does the cooking and I knew he was nervous - ordering his inputs was the least I could have done given I had pretty much suggested he go for doing the main dish which I am glad I did because I could see he enjoyed the challenge despite a slightly jittery start.
Once the food was ready we sat down together and ate. Wine was available at an additional cost. The food was amazing, the company even better although I must say that because I am genuinely interested, I do tend to bring out the best in people (and occasionally, the worst!)
I will definitely be doing this again, however, there is one thing I think they could do better: to me kitchen utensils are just a means to an end, I am still using the same Tesco value knife that I used throughout university almost a decade ago - and it wasn't even mine, someone lent it to me on day one and for some reason I have had it since but that's another story. I would really have appreciated an ongoing commentary from the chef on his utensils and why he prefers them. He commented on ingredients and technique all throughout the lesson but that was it. I don't want to be in an hour long sales pitch but I have very poor knowledge when it comes to utensils and anything extra would probably have had me pulling out my purse.
Despite my minor qualm, I recommend you get yourself into a lesson, it's a great twist on an evening out and a great business model - I wonder if it would work in other parts of the world?
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I'm always thinking, debating, considering and revising my views - some of those deliberations will be shared right here.