> The Beesley Buzz: Our amazing day at Waitrose Cookery School

Our amazing day at Waitrose Cookery School

I'm actually writing this on Saturday 11th January, the day we spent at Waitrose Cookery School, although by the time I get our photos downloaded and organised it might be several days before the post goes live.

I really wanted to blog about it whilst the experience was fresh in my mind (unlike our second Center Parcs post which I left several months and then it becomes harder to find the time to write things up!) 
In our experience, Waitrose has always been synonymous with excellence. The stores stock really great fresh produce, often seasonally, locally and responsibly sourced. The staff always go above and beyond the call of duty, and they have great initiatives to benefit local charities and the local community. They have even been extremely supportive of our homeschooling by kindly giving my boys some fresh fruit and veg produce for one of their projects.

We are pleased to say that ethos of excellence extends beyond their stores and into their cookery school too. As we were lucky enough to not have to buy the kids many Christmas presents thanks to the generosity of amazing toy brand The Toadstool, we were able to treat J and D to a very special experience instead - a family cooking day at Waitrose Cookery School

We wanted to do something special to enable our 'brilliant chef', D,  to be able to cook in a 'proper chefs kitchen' as that is something that means so much to him after his experience at the Kent Cooks Live Final in 2012. He was unable to enter Kent Cooks in 2013 because the date of the final clashed with another oh-so-special foodie day, his trip to Noma. (I know, I know its a hard life being a 7 year old food fanatic!)
And I think we can safely say that Waitrose Cookery School not only met, but totally exceeded, our expectations of a special day of family cooking. From the easy online booking (with a 10% discount for 'my waitrose' members) to prompt responses to email questions, to actually delivering an awesome experience on the day. Waitrose cookery school have got it spot on! 

This was actually the first of their cookery school courses where kids were involved after receiving many enquiries everyday. It is indeed something we emailed to enquire about several months ago, too, so it was great to see it come to fruition in what we hope was the first of many family cooking days. Their courses do get booked up quickly so if something grabs your attention, I'd encourage you to book straight away. 
Enjoying breakfast!
After eating a breakfast of fruit (including some of our favourites like persimmons, fresh figs, and papaya) pastries, granola and fresh juices and smoothie, the day began with a session in the theatre with Waitrose's resident family food expert Sylvana Franco to learn how to make some fabulous fajitas, tortilla chips and guacamole. 
D helps mash the avocado in the theatre
Then we got hands on at our own work stations and made them ourselves to enjoy as a mid-morning snack. Now I know the secrets of adding your own spices to the chicken, I don't think I'll be needing to buy ready made spice mix ever again! 
J prepares the chicken with adding herbs and spices
Next was chocolate brownie with a twist. Sylvana's recipe included a cheesecake mix swirled through it. Soooo delicious.
J prepares the chocolate layer, D prepares the cheesecake layer for the swirly cheesecake brownie
Whilst the brownie finished off cooking, our attention turned to making lunch...Toad-in-the-hole. This recipe added thyme to the batter and we made a redcurrant gravy to accompany it.
Making Toad-in-the-hole
The timings had been worked out perfectly. Real recipes - easy enough to make for the kids to get involved in all the tasks and yet not at all 'watered down' for them. Both J and D really enjoyed being involved in all the preparation and took great pride in seeing what they had achieved.
D was in his element using a sharp knife to practice his chopping skills!
Another unexpected bonus was the 'magic trolleys'. Any utensils, pots and pans could be put on the magic trolleys to be washed. Whilst we beleive it is important for kids to learn about all the jobs in the kitchen including learning to wash up it was really helpful to not have to do our own washing up today so we could focus on supporting the children and learning how to make the recipes.
There was even time to 'sniff out' some flavours from Sylvana's magic flavour box

Hmm? What flavour shall I get them to guess next?
A pack was provided with all the recipes in so we could refer to it as we went along (rather than having to memorize everything we learnt in theatre). 
Recipe sheets were provided for us to keep
Our final recipe was Salmon Fishcakes. For this one, the mash and fish had been pre-cooked for us to save time as it was the last recipe of the day. It was great fun mixing and moulding the fishcakes which we were able to bring home for dinner.

Really special touches were that you could bring home anything you didn't manage to eat, and the children were able to keep their aprons. We were kept well hydrated with a range of fabulous drinks throughout the day from the front of house team and we all received certificates at the end.

Sylvana was a great instructor and she gave us confidence in ourselves in the kitchen. Waitrose Cookery School chefs Claire and Martin were also on hand to help us all through the day.

There were just the right number of people on the course get the most out of the day and the cookery school workstations were really well equipped. The whole atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. We never imagined such a TARDIS would await us when we first arrived in the morning. There was a spacious area for eating as well as a well spaced kitchen area and high-tech theatre room.
A TARDIS of a cookery school lay behind this door in Finchley
A spacious kitchen area with workstations
A high-tech theatre room

A welcoming dining and relaxing area
The Brilliant Chef (7 year old D), has also written up his experiences of the day over on his blog and even 9 year old J wanted to write up what he thought on his own blog at JoshiMoshiBlog. (Today was one of those events that we had no idea whether J would cope with or not because of his Aspergers, yet with the friendly atmosphere, and well planned day, he did really well and thoroughly enjoyed it). 
Thank you Waitrose cookery school for an amazing day. We hope to be back again soon! 

We'll leave you with a quick video of what Miss T thought of the brownie. Although she couldn't join us today (the minimum age is 5, at least she got to have a taste, plus she had a whale of a time with Granny and Grandad).
On that note, we owe a huge thank you to Granny and Grandad for looking after Miss T all day (with a very early start to enable us to get to London on time). Without Granny and Grandad's help our special day would not have been possible. And of course a huge thank you to Sylvana, Claire, Martin, and the front of house team, as well as the behind the scenes team and all at Waitrose Cookery School for a great day. 
Updated to link up with Raisie Bay's Kids in the kitchen linky
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  1. mmmmmmmm indeed, little Miss T actually made me laugh out loud :)
    And wow, what a fantastic experience, I want to go!
    Finally, thank you so much for linking up with Kids in the Kitchen :)

    1. it was fabulous - i want to go again too! I love the idea of your linky so hopefully will get the chance to link up again. xxx

  2. That just looks utterly brillient


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