Cooking up a treat
Over the last few years, York has slowly been making a name for itself as one of the culinary capitals of the North. It’s the home to not one but two restaurants by Michelin Star chef Andrew Pern (The Star in the City & Mr P’s Curious Tavern) and was also dubbed the “centre of my food universe” by The Times’ food critic Giles Coren following his discovery of Tommy Banks’ new venture Roots on Marygate.
One place that has always been at the heart of York’s food scene for some time though is The Grand, York who have been committed to delivering quality & irresistible flavours through their different restaurant offerings. There’s the Rise Restaurant where you can in sit back and relax whilst enjoying a World Class Afternoon Tea – I’d suggest in particular that you make a beeline for the Hendrick’s Tipsy G & Tea, which is simply superb. Next up there’s Hudsons, a 3 AA Rosette restaurant, where fantastic flavours are matched with delightful décor to create a truly intimate fine dining. Or finally, if you’re just looking for a cheeky tipple then the 1906 bar has signature cocktails to die for.
The newest thing on the menu for The Grand in 2019 though is their awe-inspiring Cookery School. This state-of-the-art development was part of the hotel's £20m renovation, which also included the creation 100 new rooms and two new restaurants, and opened in March 2019. As you enter through the doors, you’re immediately struck by how big & impressive it is – it looks like a uber-stylish update of the Masterchef studio with low-hanging golden lights, shiny worktops and brand-new hobs, ovens and kitchenware. You immediately want to get going.
The Cookery School have cleverly carved the courses into four different categories to have something for all tastes – there’s full day courses for those keen to really get stuck into developing a full menu of tasty morsels, there’s half day courses, like the one I’m about to describe below, express courses, which provide two hours of time to master a delicious dish and then Parent and Child classes which provide a completely different three hours of fun to what most kids will be used to doing.
The man tasked with leading my class was Andrew Dixon, Head Chef Tutor of The Grand York, whose passion for food is clear for all to see from the moment you walk through the doors. As stated earlier, we were taking on a half day course and the theme for our course was “Proper Pies”. I mean who doesn’t like a good pie?
First, we’re taught how to make a hot water crust pastry – which was surprisingly straight forward – then we rolled it out and lined our tins – which was unsurprisingly less straight forward. Andrew showing us first how to do it before we were let loose on the kitchen to attempt it ourselves. It’s the perfect balance of teaching us the techniques but also allowing us the opportunity to have hands-on involvement.
Up next, we make our pie filling with a mixture of pork neck, shoulder, belly and an array of spice and herbs to add flavour too – before stuffing our pies to the brim with meaty goodness, popping on the pastry lid, egg-washing them for colour & crispness and banging them in the oven for 40 minutes.
Whilst our pies cooked away, we were then taught how to make the most delicious spiced pear and saffron chutney. A delicious accompaniment to our pies and, quite frankly, probably every other savoury dish going! Alongside the pie and chutney, we were also taught how to make a delightful and, again, incredibly simple, apple cake and vanilla crème anglaise (or, as I call it, posh custard) to follow too.
Once we were taught both these recipes, Andrew served us up a generous slice of the pork pie he had prepared in front of us earlier with a dollop of chutney too. We were very much in food heaven at this point and our taste buds were then treated to a portion of apple cake and custard too.
Having devoured these, it was time for our own pies to come out of the oven. Bronzed, steaming & wonderful, these were packaged up in boxes for us to take away – along with our cooking manuals and aprons too.
Following the course, I was catching a train to Scotland, so I was the envy of the carriage on the East Coast Mainline as I was able to tuck into my own pie creation.
All in all, the Cookery School at The Grand, York, is a thoroughly impressive addition to York’s blossoming foodie scene. The classes are excellently taught, the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, and the utensils & equipment is best in show. If you’re looking for the perfect way to spend a day, a half day or even a couple of hours, then I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending a trip here. Whether you’re looking to add new dishes to your repertoire or simply want to learn a new skill, the Cookery School has you covered. A trip here also makes for a unique and different present for a loved one too.
Classes start from £55.00 per person and a full calendar of taste sensations can be found on their website: https://www.thegrandyork.co.uk/cookery-school/