Senses working overtlme
A day running through the paces at Nairn’s Cook School proves to be more than a matter of taste. It’s about all five senses. Words: Barry Shelby
he accusation is often made that those who call (liemsclyes
critics could neyer do half the things they find fault with in
print. I see the point. I am not the head chef in my household: in the hours before a ditmer party at ('lie/ Shelby. I'm the one hooyering the hall rather that parboiling the potatoes.
Still. I tnake no apologies for my roast tarragon chicken. When it comes to slinging a desert—dry martini. l bow to no one. But these two kitchen creations are dead easy. I enjoy cooking. but when it comes down to it. let‘s just say I am more inclined towards recipes of a Nigel
Slater simplicity than a complicated (iordon Ramsay concoction. or
even attempting to ‘do a l)elia'.
20 THE LIST " ‘ '
So the imitation to attend a masterclass at the cook school owned by celebrity chef .\'ick .\'airn. tucked near the 'l‘rossachs aside the shores of Scotland‘s only lake. was something of challenge. Put up or shut-up. mister food writer. (‘ould I walk the walk and prodttce something that I‘m paid professionally to scrutinise'.’
I’ll not deny that I felt a hit daunted as .\'airn’s headmaster (and Michelin awarded chef) John Webber briefed our nine-member class on the loyely and practical kit in the gleamingly clean. stainless-steel teaching kitchen in Port of Tylenteith. ‘You'll leaye it as clean as you fotmd it.‘ he says. reinforcing the notion now popularised by chef/writer Tony Bourdain that in top-class restaurant kitchens. cleanliness is next to godliness.
But the school is not designed for full-time professional chefs. although some young ones do occasionally sign up. Indeed. on this particularly pleasant summer's day. the class is a mixed bag ofciyyies.
Jessica. from down south somewhere. is training to be a health professional while running a catering company on the side with a mate who‘s apparently already been here (reminding me of Carrie Fisher and Dianne Wiest’s ambitious Stanislaysky Catering Co in Woody Allen's Hannah and her .S'i'srvrs). She is up for the entire week. learning eyerything from stocks and sauces (the most informative sessions. she says) to desserts and puddings.
Another linglish woman specialises in cooking fish. while a (ilaswegian bloke about my age tells me he nearly didn‘t cotne but his wife insisted. 'l'hree dapper gents are clearly in their retirement: possibly widowed or simply men who now prepare the tea eyery eyening because the missus. a liberated ltousckeeper. has entered the job market and wouldn‘t dream of spending all day at home.
What \Vebber tacitly com eys aboye anything else (good hygiene and safety. following after) is that cooking well means using all of your senses.
'l‘asle is obyiotls. Your Nose is the second most obyiotls organ In use in the kitchen. Before we begin preparing our first dish a braised Roman-style chicken saute \Vebber passes around a dttck leg that has been cured oyernight (fish lady declines a whiff. much to my surprise: 'l don't smell raw meat.' she says somewhat sniflilyl.