The usual disclaimer as this is a review, I paid full price for this course and received no incentives to publish this review, what you read is what you get, now onto the serious stuff!
I suspect it’s difficult being a son to a foodie, especially when you are 9 years old. I think I am a responsible parent, and try and help guide as to good and not so good when eating. I believe cooking is a serious life skill that EVERY child should be positively encouraged to understand and practise, which in the world of iPads and Pokemon and fast food chains can be quite challenging!
With a 10th birthday arriving soon, when our Son Justin said he would like to go on a cookery course with his dad I could have cried with happiness. The challenge was set, find a cookery course, suitable for a soon to be 10 year old that would be interesting and engaging, some challenge indeed.
A bit of research and I had found a likely candidate at the cooking school I use the most (in the U.K.), Richard Bertinet in Bath. It’s a great setup on 2 floors so sometimes 2 different courses can be run at the same time, I had already attended more than 3 courses previously and all had been fantastic so the risk was minimal.
Booking was done online and as this was a gift, I requested the additional card with personal message and voucher as our son’s birthday was in July and the course in August, this arrived in the post a couple of days later.
We took the train to Bath, and Taxi to the School as it’s a very steep walk and we needed our energy for cooking! On arrival we were greeted with massive smiles and a very warm welcome by Fionn who helps manage everything behind the scenes at Bertinets’ and is brilliantly organised, and our tutor for the day Jenny Chandler.
Breakfast is supplied before each class starts, toast (Richards amazing bread makes amazing toast) and jam, fruit juices, tea, coffee and water. Jenny is a ‘house chef’ and has been at the school since it opened in 2005. Her background and vast experience enables her to teach a range of courses which you can find on the Bertinet School Website HERE, the session we were attending, Cool Kids Cook is based on a children’s cookery book Jenny published in May of this year, and aimed at helping children get confident in the kitchen and experiment with different flavours.
There were 2 other children on the course, I think the parents were more nervous than the kids but we all got on really well as we started to understand what was going to happen for the next few hours, it’s a ‘proper’ cooking course but aimed at little ones.
To start Soda Bread was made, using the same basic recipe but adding some subtle changes. This really helped build confidence very quickly and dealing with ‘where can I get Buttermilk” was quickly dealt with and an alternative approach was used which was even new to me, and something I will remember for the future. The three different versions, White, Wholemeal and a Seeded version were soon in the oven cooking away and the little ones faces beaming at what they had already made.
The next item on the agenda was a Chowder, blimey that’s quite advanced for adults let alone children at 10 years of age, this is where the knife skills were introduced. Jenny carefully explained how to use a knife to SAFELY cut Onions which were needed for the Chowder. Chop, chop, chop and soon the Onions were slowly frying in the pan as explanations about how to cook them correctly, to translucent stage!!
The Chowder continued, ‘Lardons of Bacon’, confidence in using cooking knives was obviously gaining and the 3 kids chopped, prepped, chatted and were having really good fun, Jenny was constantly eagle eyed, making sure that no one risked chopping off a finger and encouraging them to be cautious and think about what they were doing. The rest of the ingredients were completed and added to the pot, each child taking turns to add, stir and smell which was great.
Meatballs were next, three different versions were produced showing how the same basic recipe could be used to make dishes with completely different flavours, at the same time, the method of testing before cooking a whole batch enabled seasoning to be introduced to ensure the end result tasted correct.
This is a really full on course, but the juniors in the room kept going and Jenny engaged with them all the time as a group, and individually giving them little hints and tips, and encouraging their excellent progress and making sure they were all happy, it was really very good.
The school is very very well laid out with lots of room, each person having their own cooking station and stool to rest their weary feet if needed, and enough knives, bowls etc to go round so no one was left out.
The course started at 10:00 and we stopped at about 12:00 for a break and a quick light nibble before continuing. The behind the scenes team led by Fionn did a fantastic of keeping the tops clean and making sure that everything we needed was to hand, as well as keeping Tea and Coffee on tap for those that needed it (me)!
I have to say that I think the adults enjoyed the cookery as much as the 3 children, it was quite hard work for all of us, concentrating on Jenny’s instruction and helping from time to time where needed.
In all, the children made Starter, Main Course and Dessert (Crumbles of various types) and learned lots of different skills and techniques along the way. They also made an impromptu ‘Pan Con Tomate’, our Justin is not keen on Tomato and this Spanish favourite was a way to subtly encourage him to try. It was delicious and went we finally got home, he made his Mum some with the Soda Bread he had also baked earlier!
At the end of the day we all sat down and tried the Soda Bread, which was very good. Then, each child went up to garnish the Chowder served for their Dad (there were no mums present and the Dad’s Chowder had smoked Fish in, which the little ones were not so keen on), followed by the Meat Balls with 2 different Tomato Sauces, Cous-Cous and finally the Crumbles.
The session started at 10:00 and we left about 15:15, the teaching was brilliant, the kids left with big smiles, lots of confidence and wanting to cook more when they got home. I would recommend this course as a fantastic way to help any child who has the slightest interested in cookery, learn new tricks by a lovely kind and patient chef Jenny, who was inspired by her own daughter to write the book in the 1st place.
If you cannot manage the course, the book is very good, easy to read, and when supervised by a parent would be a great way to help children learn cooking skills and be a bit more adventurous in the kitchen.
So, a fantastic day was had by Justin and his Dad, huge thanks to Jenny, Fionn and Richard for making it possible and producing such a fantastic experience for the younger generation, and to the other attendees for making the group work so well together.
……………………..Until next time……………L8ers……………………..