Open Mon–Sat 9.30am–6pm; Sun midday–5pm
There are quite a few cooking courses out there for those looking to either learn some basic skills, or for those who feel a huge need to be knock-out in the kitchen. The boy-who-is-a-friend in my life (as opposed to conventional boyfriend) is as passionate about cooking as he is about eating great food. Hitting the big 4-0 and already possessing enough kitchen gadgets to make Nigella’s kitchen look as bare as mother hubbard’s, I have been researching an inspiring culinary course for the birthday boy. He can be a little snobby about ingredients so I quickly realised that there was no choice; it was to be Divertimenti’s Cooking School or nothing.
We had to be at the Brompton Road branch of the superior kitchen shop by 6.30pm. Downstairs is a fully functional kitchen, with at least eight work stations. Guo Yue was our teacher for the evening and, titled The Real Sichuan, we were in for a real treat. Surprisingly, the treat was not solely edible. Discovered by Peter Gabriel, Guo is a musician and chef in equal measure. Growing up in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution, this talented and wonderfully eccentric guru is recognized as both an outstanding soloist on the Chinese bamboo flute, as well as a true master of Chinese cooking.
He explained how the art of making Jiaozi dumplings demonstrates the love and friendship you feel for your guests. I’d like to pretend that my dumplings (filled with pork, tiger prawns, bamboo, dried mushrooms and Chinese chives with chilli oil) were as good as Birthday Boy’s version, but it was hard to even come close. Within minutes, Guo had recognised his talent and he was officially nominated as Teacher’s Favourite.
Once Guo had shown us just how curiously easy it is to cook his delicious Sichuan Chicken (with red pepper, cucumber, toasted nuts and chilli) and taught us how to make our own hand-made noodles (with beef, red pepper, courgette and sesame seeds), it was time to break open the wine and toast the birthday, our fellow cooking students and our new found skills. Finally it was time for Guo to play his flute as the food sizzled in front of him, before we sat at the communal table to feast on our labours.