There’s little excuse for shoddy cooking skills in Dubai, especially now that a handful of the city’s best restaurants have opened up their kitchens to hungry pupils. Nobu and Verre both offer masterclasses (and give away an industry recipe or two in the process). Rhodes Mezzanine has now joined the fray, which is why I find myself donning a dopey-looking chef’s hat while executive chef Paul Lupton reveals his number one trick for getting a soufflé to rise really high. ‘It’s all in the buttering,’ he explains to a handful of students. Using a pastry brush, he butters a small ramekin with long, even strokes.
‘It’s like you’re creating a path for the mixture and helping it to rise.’ Soufflé has a reputation for being a tricky dish to master, yet Paul teaches us a recipe that he guarantees as foolproof, using all egg whites and no yolks. ‘After making the mixture, you could put it in the fridge for the afternoon while some friends come over. You don’t have to worry about it at all,’ he explains.
The crux of the class is to instruct students how to make a simple, delicious three-course meal with no fuss and no stress, and it succeeds admirably. The spring bean and mint soup I conjure up could hold its own on any five-star menu, and I’m amazed how simple it is to create. Lupton divulges other secrets too, such as how to keep the soup a vibrant green (boil the stock before adding it to the beans) or how to ensure the accompanying poached egg comes out perfectly round (add white vinegar to the pot of boiling water and give it a swirl). The most complicated thing on the menu – fried salmon in a champagne-caviar sauce – is impressively low-key (in technique, not in flavour).
What’s especially striking is how broad the class is. I’m an amateur cook who’s whipped up dozens of soufflés in my time, yet I learn a completely new method. One of my classmates is a former chef, and even he says he’s picked up something new.
After a couple of hours in the kitchen, we’re able to sample our fare alongside some consistently excellent beverage pairings chosen by the restaurant manager, Natissa Bouhezila. If it weren’t for the fact we’re each wearing a sweat-stained apron, the meal otherwise feels like any other in Rhodes Mezzanine; smartly clad waiters whisk about us, doling out cold hand wipes and a choice of bread, and at the end we’re offered petits fours and coffee. And, of course, in classic Mezzanine fashion, we’re nearly too stuffed to move.
Before we leave we’re given goody bags, which are almost as exciting as the class itself. As well as a copy of Gary Rhodes’ cookbook, Keeping it Simple, we’re also given two ceramic knives from Great White Knives – these super-sharp, rust-resistant gadgets are a foodie’s dream. I’ll admit that at Dhs1,100, the class isn’t cheap. But you get a lot for your money.
Rhodes Mezzanine, Grosvenor House, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888). The class costs Dhs1,100 and runs on Tuesdays from 10am-2pm. It includes breakfast, a three-course lunch and a goodie bag
More cooking classes
Nobu: Held at 9am on the first Saturday of the month, students learn to make sushi, mains and a chocolate bento box. Lessons cost Dhs1,250 and are limited to 15 people per class.
Atlantis, The Palm (04 426 0760)