Friday, October 29, 2010

Waitrose’s flash new cookery school

Whatever’s happened to Waitrose? It seems to have woken up one morning and decided it was Harvey Nichols. It used to be just the supermarket arm of sober, sensible ‘never knowingly undersold’ John Lewis. Then suddenly it behaves as if it’s won the lottery splashing round money on expensive campaigns with Heston and Delia and setting up the flashest cookery school I’ve ever seen over its now massive flagship store in Finchley Road.

I got a sneak preview last week when I went in for a wine tasting and was absolutely bowled over. The space! The equipment! The cookery theatre! The staff - all proper chefs in their own right. The head of the cookery school Gordon McDermott used to run Rick Stein’s Cookery School in Padstow. The head chef James Bennington was head chef and won a Michelin star at La Trompette. The pastry chef, James Campbell used to be Head Pastry Chef for the Mandarin Oriental. And so on. They’re all absurdly over-qualified.

If you want to see what it all looks like there’s a video - a video, not just boring old words - about the school on the Waitrose website together with details of the courses that are coming up over the next two months. One day courses at £175 include Michelin star cookery, knife skills and - slightly oddly at this price - Boxing Day leftovers. You can also do knife skills as an afternoon course (£105) along with courses on afternoon tea, cupcakes (groan) and macaroons. Evening classes are the same price and demos such as the art of making and cooking perfect pasta, risotto and gnocchi are £65.

If someone had told me 5 years ago that Waitrose would be doing this I'd have thought they were barmy. Forget it - I’m booking myself in.


  1. It looks quite impressive. It's surprising that others haven't done something similar. You would have thought that the likes of Sainsbury's might have done it in conjunction with Jamie.

  2. I've watched the video. It looks as though this is aimed at people who want to play at being a chef for the day .. I love the idea of the school .. but found the video sounded like the course is all rather pretentious.

  3. I just don't think anyone thought that big. It's not what supermarkets did. Besides only a supermarket that sells upmarket ingredients can really afford to do it.

    Video is a bit underwhelming by comparison, I agree Vanessa but the remarkable thing is that that's how they've chosen to promote it on the site. I doubt if the classes will be pretentious though. I was impressed by the young chefs I met.