If you’re anything like me, now that Bake Off is done for the year, you’re probably wondering what to do with your Wednesday evenings. It’s a little know fact that as a Lancaster student, you can attend free cooking classes on Wednesday nights. A couple of weeks ago I went to one of these classes and had a chat with the university’s Executive Chef, Julian Ankers, to see exactly what the classes were like and to chat to Julian about his team’s upcoming plans for the year.
Each week, the class has a different theme – for the week I went we were cooking gluten-free. We cooked a chocolate mousse, lemon shortbread and stuffed mushrooms – all of which were ran through step-by-step and created with the guidance of Julian and his colleague Tom. The recipes were all simple to follow, and everyone was sent away with recipe cards to recreate the dishes at home. Now, I do consider myself pretty adept in the kitchen, so whilst I personally didn’t learn too many new techniques, what I will say is that the class was quite simply the most fun I’ve had on a Wednesday since Bake Off finished.
There is a maximum of 16 participants, with everyone cooking in pairs. There was one couple enjoying a date night at the event, I’d agree and say these classes would make a great date idea – it’s something a little bit different, and best of all, it’s free to attend! I was paired with another student attending alone, Mint, who is visiting Lancaster on a semester abroad from Thailand and was keen to find out more about British cooking, or at least something other than the student staples of baked beans and pasta. Julian said that international students make up a large proportion of attendees to his classes. Despite the fact that the cookery classes are a great idea, unfortunately they aren’t well attended, which is a shame considering both how enjoyable they are, and that Julian and Tom are giving up their spare time to offer these classes to students. This term has seen a new marketing push from the University for the sessions, so attendance is on the up and upcoming weeks will have themes including healthy eating and pasta making.
After the demonstration I also had a quick chat with Julian about what else we can expect to see from him this academic year. The first scheme he told me about was their ‘Grub Box’. The Grub Box will mean that groups of students can go and buy a box of grub, which they can then cook a meal with, either following provided recipe cards, or ‘cooking along’ with Julian by video. He hopes that this will increase the community spirit around cooking, which seems like a very important theme for Julian, only highlighted by the schemes attachment to Green Lancaster for providing ingredients for the boxes.
The theme of community also runs through the second scheme Julian will be launching; a community recipe-book, created for students, by students. Once up and running, students will be invited to contribute recipes which will then be added to the book. This is a joint venture too, not only involving Green Lancaster, but also the Innovation Hub who are developing the software behind the project.
Overall, Julian and his team have some pretty exciting things coming up. They’re definitely worth checking out, whether you are a seasoned chef, looking to find out a few more kitchen techniques or just looking for something a little bit different to do with your evening.
Classes are advertised via Julian’s Twitter @LUExecChef and Lancaster Campus Life on Facebook.