Hi-tech kitchen hosts cookery masterclasses
Whether you have aspirations to cook like a Michelin-starred chef or simply want to master a few kitchen basics, there is a course for everybody at Bristol's newest cookery school.
Occupying a striking church conversion on Bristol's Gloucester Road, the 102 Cookery School is the brainchild of Peter and Ben Gilks, the father and son team behind the award-winning kitchen appliance retailer Nailsea Electrical.
Winners of last year's Evening Post Family Business of the Year award, the Gilks have been one of the South West's leading independent electrical retailers for three decades and this month marks the company's 30th anniversary.
The business has expanded from a small retail shop in Nailsea to an 8,000sq ft showroom on Gloucester Road. With 300 fully working appliances on display, the shop offers visitors a fully interactive experience of the equipment before they make their choices. Although the showrooms feature the latest models from all leading manufacturers, the upstairs cookery school has been fitted out with state-of-the-art cooking equipment from Samsung, which invested in the creation of the 102 Cookery School.
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Pieces of kit such as the Dual Cook oven, which has been endorsed by the likes of Jamie Oliver, offer visitors the chance to use the latest cutting-edge equipment in the shiny new cookery school.
Classes at 102 Cookery School range from bread masterclasses to tutored wine tastings, with courses designed to suit beginners as well as experienced cooks and foodies.
As well as classes on specific skills, the cookery school also specialises in specialist workshops including Indian, Thai and sushi.
"What we're trying to do is have an emphasis on quality all round," says general manager Giles Pushman.
"There's nothing wrong with other cookery schools in the area, and it's good to see they are all busy, but they essentially have the same group of chefs doing every course, whether it's Italian, French or Indian. What we are trying to do is work with chefs who specialise in one particular area.
"We have chefs like Ron Faulkner of Ronnies and The Muset, who is doing his modern twist on European cooking, and then we have some fantastic Indian chefs coming in to do southern Indian cooking and another doing northern Indian cuisine."
Other local chefs running demonstrations at 102 Cookery School in the coming weeks include Nathan Muir of Robin Hood's Retreat, Josh Eggleton of Pony & Trap and 'Chef' Neufville, the Jamaican owner of Cheltenham Road restaurant Rice & Things.
Forthcoming events also include seasonal foraging and wild food 'demonstration and dine' evenings with Toby Gritten of The Pumphouse and regular slots by Bell's Diner chef/owner Chris Wicks.
Bristol has seen the launch of several cookery schools over recent months, something that shows that people's appetite for improving their culinary skills has never been larger.
Giles says that although many of the people attending courses are young professionals prepared to pay up to £150 for a five-hour session, the school is open to a wide range of food lovers and is attracting people of all ages.
"Although we have been seeing a number of people with high disposable incomes, we've had a broad range of people from those in their twenties, right through to people who have retired.
"People are staying in more to cook at home for family and friends these days and they want to master a few more dishes and skills.
"They also enjoy meeting some of the region's best chefs, especially when they may have eaten in their restaurants and might recognise some of the dishes.
"The hardest part is getting the right chefs for this because some chefs are better than others at teaching and communicating.
"It's about getting the balance right. It has to be fun and good value and people have to be able to walk away having spent £100 saying they feel confident to do that again at home.
"Before they come to 102, the chefs are doing trial courses for us, which is good for us because we can see how they will do but also because it's good for them to get used to the kitchen. Cooking with state-of-the- art domestic cookers is very different to the ones they would be used to cooking with in a professional kitchen."
Being a cookery school based around state-of-the-art equipment , 102 also offers people a unique opportunity to use ovens that are sold on the premises.
Says Giles: "Samsung helped financially in the construction of the cookery school and it doubles up as a unique showroom for their latest products.
"We've already had a lot of people attending the courses who are also interested in the equipment so that's good for the shop side of this business, too."
Owner Ben Gilks says: "After expanding Nailsea Electricals by opening a fully working showroom we have seen that the public have a genuine interest in food and the methods by which it is cooked to get the best results. We've been inspired by this to create a food and drink venue like no other and are very excited about the 102 Cookery School and the reaction."
To celebrate the launch of 102, there is a food and drink festival at the cookery school and shop on May 26, with live cooking demonstrations from local chefs, wine tastings and sample dishes. It runs from 10am-5pm and entry is free. For more informationcall 0117 2440047 or go to www.102cookeryschool.co.uk