Ever wanted to learn about cookery?  How do we know that we’re eating the authentic dish, or modernised to suit the ‘local’ palette?  I did some online research to see if I could find a cookery school to cover the basics.  This course on paper stood hands and shoulders above most of what I found.  The fact that it was a ‘complete’ course sold it for me.

To be honest that when Caldesi came up in the search I had never heard of them.  As it turns out, what a HUGE shame!  I feel that I have been missing out on good Italian food for far too long at their restaurant.  That’s the problem in London, there is so much choice, it can be hard to work through the extensive list.

La Cucina Caldesi is part of the very successful restaurant in Marylebone, Central London called Caffè Caldesi and sister restaurant Caldesi in Campagna in Bray, Berkshire.  Run by owners Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi.  The cookery school is tucked away, behind Caffe Caldesi restaurant, on a cute cobbled lane.  Every week I’d walk across them with excitement.  Every much attention and careful approach is put into the cookery school as every dish served in their restaurants.

la cucina caldesi kitchenThey have many courses to suit taste, budget and time.  I opted for their complete Italian cookery course; 7 weeks, 7 courses and wine-tasting would be ideal.  Covering dishes from every course, including wine tasting which is a nice, but important element when cooking.  What clinched the deal for me is after all our hard work over 6 weeks, the last evening we could invite a guest and show off our culinary skills picked up over the duration of the course.  If you have any inspiration to cook in a professional kitchen and for someone, this will appeal to you.  The course is really about learning about regional dishes, matching ingredients and Italian customs.

We were taught by Stefano Borella, Ursula Ferrigno and Giancarlo Caldesi.  We were offered nothing but encouragement throughout the course and they were on hand at every stage to guide us and answer our questions.  I know I had plenty to ask!

Stefano bought his dry sense of humour to the kitchen and likes the way coffee is made and ribbed me for weeks about turning up to the kitchen with high-street bought coffee., which I just took with the fun of the course it was intended.  He is a fantastic, patient teacher and I envy his knowledge.  He went above and beyond to answer a question outside class time and personally emailed me with the answer about where I could source some quality Italian ingredients.

We were extremely lucky to meet the fabulous Ursula during pasta week, which is most definitely her forte.  Her infectious enthusiasm that she brought, willingly trying to impart as much as she could about the different types of pasta and what she’d learnt in a very short space of time. With about 17 books to her name there isn’t much that this lady doesn’t know about Italian cookery.  This rubbed off on all of us, so much so that we’d all tried our own pasta at home, before the end of the course.

Giancarlo presided over the final week.  The first thing that struck me about him, apart from the Italian charm of course is that he is a warm and approachable chef.  I did go up to him afterwards and thank him and the staff for their dedication and support to us students.  At the beginning we felt a bit intimidated from lack of knowledge and kitchen skills.    When I thanked Giancarlo for the confidence the school had given me, he looked visibly shocked and humbled, which I thought was endearing.  His heart is in Italian cookery and his home country, but loves life and the ability to impart knowledge to others.  What I came away from this course was confidence, knowledge, enthusiasm and skills.  Getting that out of a cookery class – you can’t ask for more really.

la cucina caldesi kitchenLet us not underestimate what it takes to run a cookery school, let alone two restaurants.  It would be very easy to grab a set of ingredients, throw a group of students into a room and say “follow this recipe” and that’s a cookery lesson!  Not with the Caldesi’s. It’s evident that a lot of time and money is poured into the cookery school.  Amazing, quality ingredients, a modern workspace and equipment for students and as well as the great teachers.  Let us not forget for a minute the assistance given by Stefano and Lily while I was there.  They ran around after us, cleaning up, getting the equipment ready that we needed and laid ingredients out.  No time was wasted from a student’s point of view because of this.  For once, the washing up is taken care of!

It’s worth mentioning that this course was of group participation.  To get through up to 6 dishes in 3.5 hours for beginners in near on impossible, so we all took pride in preparing and cooking elements of the dishes each week and then all sat down at the end of each class with a glass of wine to enjoy and chat about what we’d cooked, or just chat in general 🙂  A very convivial atmosphere.  They even made provisions for those with dietary requirements.

If like me, you go into cold sweats, from a poor memory and easily forget techniques or quantities of ingredients, let me reassure you that recipe sheets with ingredients and techniques are emailed to you.  They were very gracious in allowing me to publish their course recipes on my site to share and encourage others to try Italian cookery.

Walking past their stand on Saturday at the BBC Good Food Show at Kensington Olympia exhibition centre, I found myself with a very content grin, knowing that I had completed their Complete Italian cookery course in Central London just a month ago.

I can’t fault the hard work and dedication that the Caldesi’s and their fantastic staff put into both the restaurants and cookery school.  Yes, I am hard to please and cannot find fault with their approach or delivery.  I walked away as one happy and more knowledgable cook, with a thirst for knowledge to find out more and importantly cook!

You can look up more of their cookery courses at http://caldesi.com/la-cucina-caldesi/  Their next complete Italian cookery course is being held at Marylebone in January 2015.

If you fancy trying some of their authentic, Italian recipes, go to my page http://www.chillijamuk.com/cuisine/italian/

Score 10/10 (should be 9.5 because of Stefano’s cheek…only joking as a 10 is well deserved).

All my reviews on this site are impartial.  I am not paid or receive any incentives to place reviews.


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