French cooking class at L’atelier des Chefs
When I make mashed potatoes, I pour the milk and cream straight into the potatoes. I scrunch herbs with my fingers when I chop them. I also put oil in the pan before frying meat.
Last night, I was kindly invited by L’atelier des Chefs (located near Oxford Circus) to partake in their 1-hour French cooking class, where I was politely told that all the things I mentioned above are ‘not the way chefs do it’. Clearly, I had a lot to learn!
I first heard about L’atelier des Chefs from my boyfriend, who took their steak cooking class last year. When I decided a little while ago that I needed to improve my cooking skills, I remembered this and looked them up. Their repertoire of classes is staggering – they do Japanese, French, patisserie and Indian, to name but a few, and their classes range from 30 minutes to 4 hours. Sadly, I don’t work anywhere close by, so I cannot do their lunch courses, but they are incredible value at £15 for a quick lunch break.
The venue is inconspicuous, but when you walk in there is a lovely long dining table where we enjoyed our meal after cooking in the large kitchen behind it. We were provided with aprons and then our chef for the evening gave us a quick introduction to the dishes before giving us a detailed list of instructions pertaining to the ingredients before us. He demonstrated how to chop a shallot with no tears, cut herbs with no bruising, and slice garlic without bitterness. This was all new knowledge to me, and I enjoyed using the large knife to cut in the way he instructed (perhaps a little too much!).
As this was a 60 minute class, there were certain things that were prepared, for example the potatoes – these were boiled when we arrived and our chef demonstrated how to mash and prepare them properly (the trick is to let the steam dissipate before mashing, else it will get trapped and make the potatoes watery). However, we did prepare the highlight of the evening, which was the duck breast, by simply trimming the fat and seasoning it with salt and pepper before frying it without any additional oil (I was blown away by the juices that escaped upon frying, making extra fat unnecessary). The accompanying sauce was made up of fried lettuce (a strange yet very tasty concept), peas, garlic, shallots, chicken stock and lemon juice, which went really well with both the meat and the mash.
The chocolate and orange fondant was a little trickier, but we were told that we would succeed as long as we listened to the chef’s instructions. We mixed the first few ingredients and were then presented with melted chocolate to fold into the batter. I wasn’t quite sure where it came from but the bits that ‘accidentally’ dripped onto my fingers tasted delicious! Shaping the dessert was slightly tricky, but we all managed it in the end and the result was firm on the outside, gooey on the inside and yummy all the way through!
The entire evening had a wonderful atmosphere, and I would highly recommend L’atelier des Chefs for a date, a night with friends or even a corporate event. The only thing is that it felt a little rushed, but that is to be expected with a 60 minute limit (which we overran). It was nice to sit together afterwards and eat our accomplishments (wine was provided), but this was a little hurried – I personally am quite a slow eater and most people had actually left by the time I finished my dessert! In addition, I think that complete beginners could struggle, as our tasks assumed a certain amount of foreknowledge. Nonetheless, I had a wonderful time, and the staff was very friendly and helpful as well. It’s a great way to spend an evening, and I will definitely be returning very soon – my steak skills need improving!