The Pantiles has been experiencing a transformation recently and the famous chef Rosemary Shrager is one of the people behind these changes. Rosemary and her team are breathing life into the Corn Exchange with their newly-opened cookery school.
Mrs Anke slaps her dough about.
Mrs Anke and I were invited down for the day for a taster course of baking bread, filleting fish, and - the part I was particularly looking forward to - eating.
The luxurious kitchen is quite an amazing space - a welcoming blend of modern yet homely workstations put you at ease and allow you to settle in right away. The feeling of reassurance was also helped by a beautifully laid out table of coffee and cakes that greeted us as we sat down with Rosemary to break the ice and get to know each other. The lovely Jonathan was also on hand to see to everyone wishes: every kitchen needs a Jonathan I'm told, and we agree.
Right, on to the business of cookery.
Now, I must admit that I did hide behind my camera for most of the day, only venturing out to have a go at extracting a fillet from a sea bass. Which I think I did rather well at. I was more than happy to watch Mrs Anke and the rest of the invited guests exercise their skills under the expert guidance of Rosemary's executive chef, John Kirby, and his colleague Johnny. There are lots of people with names starting with J here aren't there.
Being a boy I was keeping a keen eye on the technology surrounding us. Their extraordinarily well-appointed kitchen is not only one of the most advanced in the country it is also one of the most eco-friendly. As a few examples: they have conductive hot plates which have special matching pans that help reduce energy usage by 30%, no wasteful gas here. Only 10% of their food waste is actually thrown away - the rest is dried in a dehumidifier and made into powders and ingredients for stocks and sauces, and they have an amazing glasswasher that does a cycle in 75 seconds!
After enjoying our little taster of the classes on offer (you can read more detail on Mrs Anke's post) we all sat down together around the chef's workspace to watch the masters at work, have a chat about food, and sample three courses made with the ingredients that we had helped to prepare. The dishes were delicious and to be able to watch them being prepared and cooked right under your nose is a really special experience. Quite how the chefs deal with all those pots and pans whilst chatting and answering our questions is beyond me.
I think this venture is a real coup for Tunbridge Wells and looks set to become quite a treasured glocal™ business. Glocal? Eh? What am I on about? Well, people are already booking up courses from all over the world which will be fabulous for our local economy, and one of the core values of the school is to use as much local produce as possible. Pretty much everything used in the school is sourced from around us here in Kent and Sussex. See, global and local - glocal™. Whatever I'm gibbering on about one thing I am absolutely sure of is that this new school will give the bottom end of town a real boost.
They will also be opening a delicatessen and café at the end of the year. So come on Tunbridge Wells let's get behind them, it will bring great things to our town.
Mrs Anke and I really enjoyed the day, we learnt a lot in such a small space of time, and can heartily recommend that if you want the perfect unusual present this year then head on over to their website to book.
You can now head on over to Mrs Anke's blog and she will fill you in on the the details of the day.