Friday, 10 August 2012

Natives Chalet cookery course...

Kerry and I just got back from the Natives Chalet cookery course held at St Teresa's girls boarding school near Effingham, Dorking.

Boarding school accommodation
To say I want to go back is an understatement. Our course instructors were brilliant. Tony was a 50, possibly 60-something who jacked in a near 6 figure salary in London to pursue a better lifestyle and was now on his 9th season working in the Alps! He floats about in the summers, helping out at his friends' place, fishing and camping in the Highlands of Scotland and running a few cookery courses. Sounds like a life of bliss!

Dave had worked as a resort manager and was on hand to answer questions about what it was like to work a season. Unfortunately for him a mortgage and sprogs means he's had to bow out of seasonal work.

Going to a boarding school was a weird thing to start. We were allocated small boarding rooms to live in. When I tried piling in to Kerry's single room with her Tony pointed out that it was a single bed and I may be more comfortable in a room of my own!

Bread crumbed Fish, Beef Bourguignon and Carrot and coriander soup
I'd perused through the Natives Chalet cook book before. I even bought a copy! (Only for them to make it free online :() So I kind of already knew what to expect and had practiced some of the recipes at home.

The days involved splitting up in to teams of 3 or 4. These teams would then work together cooking parts of meals, cakes for afternoon tea and desserts which we all ate around a communal table and discussed.

After afternoon tea (16:30) we then had a bit of down time where we watched a few films and generally milled about. The team who were responsible for cooking dinner that night then had to be in the kitchen by 18:45 to serve dinner at 20:00.
Human Buckaroo, Tom is under all of that!
As can be expected from potential seasonnaires there was quite a bit of drinking involved. Vino seemed to be the tipple of choice amongst the other guys and I'd dread the pint of red, white, vodka monster and beer that would come round to me during a certain drinking game :0

One night a top notch bloke called Tom managed to neck his bottle of cheap plonk quicker than I can down a strawpedo. Much antics followed including quite a large amount of smelly sick, until he finally passed out on the sofa. Then a huge game of human Buckaroo unfolded including lit table lamps.

Mine and Kerry's graded meal
The week culminated in Kerry and I teaming up to cook a proper 3 course meal of our choosing. We learnt that when planning an evening dinner there is more to consider than just what to cook. We had to take in to account colours of each course and their similarity to the other courses, colours used within each course and whether they fit with other ingredients. The starters shouldn't be too close to the main ie Salmon triangles to start followed by poached salmon for main course.

We decided upon: Seasoned Tomato and Mozzarella on a garlic crouton with Basil for starter. Main was Lamb chops with a homemade rosemary and red current sauce, Gratin Dauphinoise potato with Sauteed French beans and glazed carrot batons. All of this was followed by Gooey chocolate brownie with ice cream and a sticky chocolate fudge sauce.

Stunning array of meals produced by everyone
It was a pleasure to cook with Kerry. I'd been paired up with some really nice other wannabe chalet hosts but it was good to know that Kerry and I can work efficiently together without getting all Gordon Ramsey at each other! The final graded meal went without a hitch. We were both really pleased with the final result. Timings all went well, nothing was burnt/under cooked and the presentation was spot on.

The whole meal was then tasted and graded by the instructors whilst we cleared the kitchen. We achieved an A grade for all three courses! A massive boost and proof that we can cook to a high standard. When we finally got to try it it was stone cold so wasn't too appealing but if judged by smell and looks alone I'd have given it an A too!

The people really did make the course though. Everyone was 18 and fresh out of 6th form. I felt like a Grandad at a christening. But everyone was so nice. There were no spats or agro, everyone got along and if we weren't cooking or eating we were chugging the beers or lolling in front of a film. I really hope to meet some of the guys and girls again out on a ski resort and it really would be a pleasure if I was fortunate enough to get to work with any of them.

Thanks for such an awesome week everyone!

Skiworld and Alpine Elements are two ski tour operators who run chalets and hotels in Europe. Kerry and I were both able to have 1:1 interviews with the recruiting managers from both companies and felt they went well. Fingers crossed we are offered a job with either. Hopefully our cooking this week impressed them.

Are you thinking of the Natives course? Go for it!

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