This year, the calendar at the City Restaurant in our College Green Centre has been positively bursting at the seams with guest chef workshops, and last month we welcomed local chef Michael Cowley to the kitchen to lead the final gourmet dinner of the academic year.
Michael currently works at Bristol restaurant Adelina Yard, and took the time out of his busy schedule to support our students and host the gourmet dinner.
Michael originally met Catering Lecturer Ryan Fernandes, at a Chef’s Forum; the pair sparked up a conversation and hatched a plan for Michael’s visit to the college after he expressed just how much he enjoys teaching.
Talking of the dinner, Michael said: “It’s really nice because all of the kids are here and wanting to learn. Obviously, they’re all working at different levels, but the one thing that they have in common is that they’re all interested. I think that some of them haven’t necessarily seen a lot of what we’re doing today before, and they’re all excited about that.
“For example, they’ve been really excited about how you can simply cure mackerel and eat it, you don’t have to cook it, and that sort of thing is exciting for me too, you know, just to share a little of the skills that I have, skills that I can pass on and get them going.”
Giving up his time to teach the students is something that Michael finds incredibly rewarding. He commented: “It is really rewarding; to see the students kind of nervous at the start, and then they get a few things going; for example, we taste the final sauce together, and it’s a cool experience; it’s exactly the kind of experience that I was hoping for.”
The menu of the evening included English asparagus with salsa verde, charred mackerel with fennel, olive, chilli and caper dressing, lamb rump and tempura sprouting broccoli accompanied by pak choi.
For dessert, strawberry, vanilla ricotta and lemon thyme shortbread was the star of the show.
Talking of the menu, Michael added: “This time of year, late spring, early summer, it’s just the best time of the year to cook in England, so straight away you want asparagus with some kind of greens, or straight away you want to introduce strawberries; straight away you want Jersey royals, peas and broad beans and there’s the beginning of your menu.
“So, I built it around those key seasonal ingredients and added mackerel to accompany the asparagus. I knew I wanted lamb, and I wanted strawberries. So, I round up those beautiful things that are perfectly in season now, and I add to them.”
We caught up with Michael just as the students’ food preparation was in full swing, and we were keen to hear how he felt about the upcoming service of the evening. He said: “I think it will be really fun to see what the kids are like in service. The menu has been completely designed, and there’s a lot that’s already plated, and we’ll continue to get it ready to go so that the service is absolutely top-level. It should be nice, and it should be a fun experience for all.”
Although all gourmet dinners are now concluded for this academic year, if you would like to experience one for yourself in the future, watch this space where dates will be announced next academic year.