Learn the secrets of celebrity chefs

Updated on 11 March 2011 | 0 Comments

Two top celebrity chefs tell us how they teach the tricks of their trade.

Channel 4's Cookery School with Richard Corrigan and Gizzi Erskine starts on 31st January and is on at 2.10pm (for the first show) and 2.15pm weekdays for 10 weeks. 

What’s this, another cookery programme?

Well, yes. But as we’re all fans of food anyway and cooking programmes in particular, that should be ok by us. Cookery School does what it says on the tin: it takes a bunch of green cooks and puts them through their paces in front of judges Richard Corrigan and Gizzi Erskine. Each group of contestants get a five-day expert cookery course and eliminations take place over the ten-week series, until one winner emerges.

It sounds a bit like Masterchef.

It is a bit like Masterchef. But the main difference is that to get through to Masterchef you have to cook to a really high standard already, and there is no coaching. On Cookery School, everything from knife skills to how to make a decent white sauce is taught from scratch.

Who are Richard and Gizzi?

Michelin-starred Irishman Richard Corrigan is one of London’s top chefs and the owner of Corrigans in Mayfair and Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill. He plays the bad cop in the series, pushing the contestants to discover and reach their full capacity. Gizzi Erskine is a food writer and TV presenter, known for her Cook Yourself Thin series.

Can Britain cook?

What the first series of Cookery School reveals is that it doesn’t really matter what you already know or how much exposure you’ve had to cooking. The best cooks were those who worked hard, listened, and improved quickly.

The winner, says Gizzi, “was somebody who had gone from being pretty rubbish to absolutely outstanding. It proved that the methods were working, and you could turn somebody from a bit of a novice into an exceptional cook”.

I’m already pretty good with a whisk

Richard and Gizzi discovered that plenty of us talk the food talk, but far fewer can walk the walk without some serious kitchen mishaps. “People get a lot of snippets of knowledge from cookery on television,” says Richard. “But that doesn’t mean they know how to cook. The more knowledge and experience they claimed to have on their CV, the worse they were.”

“What we really noticed was that the people who you would maybe consider ‘foodies’,” says Gizzi, “who were very comfortable with food, probably read all the right magazines, had the right books, ate in the right restaurants, weren’t necessarily the best cooks.” 

Any tips for lovefood.com readers?

Richard says the most important item in a kitchen is a decent frying pan. “Everyone’s into their slow cookers and gadgets and this and that. I still love my copper pans and my cast-iron frying pans.”

Gizzi goes for knives (she bought her mum a new set just so she could use them herself when she was over there) and pans.

Also, “Taste your food,” says Richard. “Taste it and taste it and taste it. People don’t taste what they cook, and then they put it on a plate and say ‘Oh, this doesn’t taste so good’. They haven’t seasoned it or spiced it, and they end up with food that tastes of nothing.  And they get demoralised and disillusioned, and they order a takeaway next time.”

You can find Richard's recipes right here on lovefood.com: for example, try his Mushroom crepe gratin. Mmmmm....

How can I woo my Valentine in the kitchen?

The top Valentine’s tip comes from Richard, as it requires no cooking at all: half a dozen oysters and a decent bottle of Burgundy. Or try the Asian Oysters from the Cookery School cookbook – raw and dressed in an Asian dressing, and serve with Chablis.

Gizzi advises keeping the food light. Perhaps make a tuna Chateaubriand instead of beef, and serve courgette fritters instead of chips, with a homemade hollandaise, before going all out with a gooey chocolate pudding.

Hopefully, Cookery School will be doing its bit for the nation in more ways than one: teaching the contestants and viewers how to cook, and setting some new standards for the desperately bad dinner party hosts on Come Dine With Me.

The only shame is the scheduling. Channel 4’s Cookery School begins 31 January at 2.10pm, which means it’s only giving people at home and near a television in the afternoons the chance to benefit from Richard Corrigan’s expertise.  Boo!

Channel 4's Cookery School with Richard Corrigan and Gizzi Erskine starts on 31st January and is on at 2.10pm (for the first show) and 2.15pm weekdays for 10 weeks. 

Also worth you attention:

Recipe by Richard Corrigan: Mushroom crepe gratin


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