Sunday, 20 July 2014

Chefs take their first look at Britannia's Cookery Club

(From left) Eric Lanlard, James Martin and Rob Cottam check plans
 for The Cookery Club with P&O project manager David McCarthy

TV chef James Martin took a look round his latest project this week - a cookery school. Not set in a Yorkshire farmhouse or an East End warehouse, but on Deck 17 of a cruise ship, 140 feet above the waves.

The Cookery Club is a feature of P&O's Britannia, due to make its debut in Southampton next March. For now the venue is effectively a building site with hundreds of workmen busily welding, wiring and wrangling everything into place.

It took some imagination to picture the Cookery Club as it will look when it's complete, with workstations for 24 guests at a time and including a bench adapted for wheelchair users.

Saturday Kitchen's James said he plans to be on board Britannia at least once a month and he is assembling a team of friends to join him and P&O's other Food Heroes, who include Marco Pierre White, Atul Kochhar, wine expert Olly Smith and cheesemonger Charlie Turnbull.

Mary Berry is one of those he hopes to attract, but he is still waiting for her phone call.

Supervising the Cookery Club will be Rob Cottam, who has taught at Leith's School of Food and Wine, and the Ashburton Cookery School in Devon.

He was embarrassed about flying to Italy with a pasta making machine in his hand baggage, but he was relieved to confirm it will fit on the workstations.

One of Rob’s early recipe suggestions – involving beetroot – was very quickly ruled out by James. “I’m not having beetroot anywhere near The Cookery Club,” he said. “It will ruin all the beautiful white worktops and we’ll never be able to clean it off.”

Rob is looking forward to attracting up to 11,000 passengers a year to the Cookery Club, and to taking guests ashore on culinary excursions.

Also seeing the ship for the first time this week was CakeBoy Eric Lanlard, whose sweet creations will feature in Britannia's Market Café. He spent the day capturing  every aspect of the ship on his GoPro camera.

The French-born patissier, who learnt his trade as a pastry chef while doing his national service on the navy's flagship, said: "I never realised the ship would be so big. It's going to be amazing."