Give a Cookery Lesson Gift
I love cookery courses and they make the best gifts for those who are hard to buy. In my early 20’s I would book into courses at Leiths Cookery School, Le Cordon Bleu, Divertimenti or head to The Savoy for a course with the then Head Chef Anton Edelmann and a lunch. I would enjoy tearing away from work to sit at the top of Canary Wharf to enjoy a couple of hours in the company of Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray from the Rivercafe. The time is spent listening and watching, in my case asking questions (my brain always asks questions!) which fills your creative soul and memories are made and drawn on for life. Not many gifts can offer you that amount of pleasure. Ok, add a recipe book to that list too.
Each experience is a memory and has provided me with fantastic recipes and invaluable tips that I still use today. I bought a pasta pin after an Ursula Ferrigno bread making demo in the early 1990s at Divertimenti in Marylebone, I use it to roll everything from pizza, pasta and cookies.
If you are ever near Borough Market they used to (pre-pandemic) offer free demonstrations with recipe handouts (I do love a handout) between lunch hours. You can dip in and out and draw a sizeable group of visitors to the market. You will stand and watch well-known chefs with students from the surrounding unis, office workers, visitors from abroad and residents. Food has a wonderful ability to bring wonderful people together that usually have the same thread of wanting to create and share a meal or new idea and have their minds opened to new foods and tastes.
You also come away with tips that you can use for easy entertaining. Ruth and Rose’s tip was to wash a tub of seasonal raspberries, buy the best ricotta cheese you could afford and grate the zest and squeeze a little lemon juice over the raspberries and serve this as a summer dessert. That tip was made in passing not within any handout and sometimes that is the difference between going to an event and reading the recipes online. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to travel to these events so recreating dishes from online recipes are fantastic at feeding your creative soul.
Isn’t life about storing and recalling memories, now more than ever, we are having to draw on our memories to make life more interesting. So giving a gift of a cooking lesson or even a recipe book is something that you can draw on and reuse for years to come.
You may have family that are young and hanker after the latest toy they have seen on TV. The joy of seeing them opening what they have wanted from Father Christmas or seen in the shops is priceless and short-lived. So indulge and enjoy that stage. However, my stage is the head-scratching stage. We used to have Apple Christmas or so I dubbed them because they would want something from the Apple store. That too has passed as they own all the models of the tools they need from the Apple store!
So if like me you are scratching your head at what to buy, think outside the box and give the gift of a cookery lesson. It can be someone in your local area that has a skill or idea that can be shared in an afternoon, a team of dedicated cookery professionals that have pre-recorded their knowledge and shared it online.
A friend gifted her son a Jean Christoffe Novelli course for his 21st, it was a live cook along. What a wonderful memory to gift for life.
He learnt to make coq au vin, a French classic with a Jean Christophe Novelli twist. The dish that he can make and enjoy from now until his later years. Gifts given with meaning rather than things add to the memory bank and provide four stages of joy. The anticipation of opening the gift to find out what has been chosen for you. The build-up to the actual event, participating in the event and then the memories thereafter. Telling people where you have been and making the dish for years to come.
Now you could buy a physical gift and that can sit in a room and be enjoyed but a cooking lesson gift is one that you can have perceptual use of and perhaps even pass on the joy of the gift by creating and sharing the recipes you have learnt with your friends.
A few years back I was gifted a course with a friend to learn to make Pad Thai at the Kings Cross branch of the Waitrose Cookery School. My friend joined me and it was a wonderful day for the two of us to enjoy cooking, learning, catching up and learning a dish that every time we recreate it will take it back to my birthday and our time together.
There are numerous courses be they in your town or available online, look to your favourite food magazine for us the BBC Good Food has very reasonable masterclasses. The hour sessions start at £12.50 and make for a wonderful escape in the middle of your working day or evening. They are usually timed between 12 -2 pm and 6-8 pm. Your soul really feels fulfilled if you learn something new or brush up on skills you have exercised in a while.
BBC Maestro launched and offer longer courses 25 sessions 5.5 hours of content for around £80 depending on the chef. They have fantastic chefs like the wonderful Pierre Koffmann giving you lessons.
So if you are wondering what to give your children, teens, young adults, family or friends this birthday or festive season, think outside the box and gift them memories and skills for life.
This photo was shared with me after Max enjoyed his birthday gift from his creative parents. That is the recipe he learnt to make for Coq au Vin, with Jean Christophe Novelli. Seek it out it is wonderful.