The Michel Roux Jr Cookery School
1 St Luke's Avenue, London, England, SW4 7LG
020 7091 4800 | www.cactuskitchens.co.uk
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Food and Travel Review
Cactus Kitchens or The Michel Roux Jr Cookery School:
Bumping into famous chefs at Cactus Kitchens is a little like seeing a member of the royal family at Buckingham Palace – not entirely surprising, but thrilling nonetheless. This cosy school, tucked under the eaves of St Luke’s Chapel in London’s leafy Clapham, was co-founded by Michel Roux Jr. Its premise is unique, being created as a space where keen amateur cooks can learn from their favourite celebrity chefs. Fans of weekend daytime television will recognise it from Saturday Kitchen Live which has been filmed here since 2012.
Classes range from half to full days including the Michel Roux Jr Premier Experience (cooking a three-course meal with instruction from the man himself) and the Monica Galetti Experience (where you will learn the ‘secrets of a sous chef’).
Today, I’m here for Cooking the Roux Way. It’s a full day that revolves around the preparation of a seasonal three-course dinner. The session is lead by Toby Stuart, one of the rising stars of the Roux dynasty, ably supported by two home economists. He is an excellent teacher, full of practical tips for how to limit waste, and his class is clearly respected within the industry; Rachel Humphrey, head chef at two-Michelin-star Le Gavroche, popped in to pick up some teaching tips (she is starting her own course later this year).
The class is taught by a mixture of demonstration and hands-on work. Although there is a capacity for 12 people in the tastefully decorated classroom, today there are only nine of us so we have plenty of one on one time with Toby. My fellow students are all confident amateur cooks looking to learn new dishes for entertaining – I hope to be able to keep up with the pace.
As all the best meals do, we start with pudding. Leftover fruitcake parfait with griottine cherries and amaretti crumble proves technically stretching. I come close to overcooking the egg yolks in my zabaione and several of my classmates over whip their cream. A smoked-salmon tartare starter with sweet and sour cucumber and melba toasts is more straightforward and packs a punch in the flavour stakes. Definitely one I’ll recreate at home.
The highlight of the day is duck breast with wild mushrooms and roasted shallot in a red wine sauce. It’s a classically French fusion of strong, savoury flavours offset by rich caramel notes.
Each practical is punctuated by a trip to the dining room to demolish the course we’ve just prepared alongside some excellent wine pairings. After a couple of glasses of Château Belrose Reserve from Bordeaux (a perfect match for the duck), I am swapping Twitter handles with Toby, and promising to tweet him pictures when I recreate these recipes at my next dinner party. KR.
Cooking The Roux Way costs £298 for a day’s course. For more classes and prices, see cactuskitchens.co.uk