We Can Wok It Out | Dan Doherty’s School of Wok Takeover, 61 Chandos Place, London WC2N 4HG
As much as we (well, I) love cooking, the prospect of visiting a cookery school has never really appealed, I did one once with a friend and can’t recall a single thing that I learnt. School of Wok, however, has been on our radar for a few years now but we just hadn’t had a chance to go. Set up by 4th generation foodie Jeremy Pang back in 2009, this school has gone from strength to strength, even the legend that is Ken Hom has cooked there. Their story is really quite lovely and brimming with passion, something that’s always a massive draw for us.
When we heard that Dan Doherty, executive chef extraordinaire from Duck & Waffle was going to host a class – an ‘Asian-inspired decadent brunch’, we pulled out all the stops. Plans were dropped immediately in order to be there, we just couldn’t miss out on this. Over the five years or so that we’ve been writing We Love Food, we’ve attended numerous masterclasses (not cookery classes) – from creating a chocolate bombe at The Ritz to distilling our own gin at Bump Caves, this was going to be up there with those two.
For me, the whole idea of going to a cookery class with Ade is so that he comes home inspired and armed with ideas of things to rustle up for me. As much as I love his omelettes and ‘chicken and bacon surprise’ (the surprise being that he’s cooking in the first place), it would be nice for him to try something new every once in a while.
Dan was the man for this task.
We headed to School of Wok on a Friday night, feeling weary from the week just gone and slightly nervous about the class and making fools of ourselves. Minutes after arriving, glasses of bubbly were thrust into our hands and our apprehension subsided. This was obviously going to be casual and fun, judging by the atmosphere and the bunch of people that were there. The women swooned over Dan, giggling at his unintentional innuendos, I think even some of the guys were a little bit taken by him…
On the menu for the evening was the infamous duck and waffle dish, Chinese congee with pickles and custard donuts. All this was to be prepared and eaten within three hours, well kind of. We teamed up in groups of 3-4 and with Jeremy and Dan’s guidance and got cooking. Kicking off with the congee which no one in our group had ever tried before – think savoury porridge, or as Dan described, a ‘hug in a bowl’.
Whilst this was simmering away under guidance from the brilliant staff at School of Wok, we made waffles. Everyone was fighting over Dan’s special waffle maker, it’s hard to believe they only have one of the babies on the go in the restaurant at any one time, although they have a staggering eight machines in various other rooms as back-up in case it breaks.
Then it was time to make the custard buns – fluffy little bao balls stuffed with a coconut custard. This was the most hands-on that it got and the part that we enjoyed the most. Ade’s competitive streak resulted in him creating the smoothest, most perfectly formed buns. Although I think mine were pretty fine-looking too, he was never going to admit this. You should have seen his reaction the time I won a darts match by a massive fluke, he couldn’t even look at me. His face was a picture as his buns were placed on a tray, mixed up with all the others to be taken away to cook, he wanted to eat the ones that he made himself, following their complete journey.
When it came to the signature dish of duck and waffle, I’d never felt so under pressure to crack an egg correctly. Everyone has their own way of doing this, mine usually results in one tiny shard of shell falling in to the pan. Whilst we were in the kitchen frantically plating up, the main room had been transformed, we walked in to candles flickering and everyone sat at a long table preparing to embark on the feast that we’d created. What we found lovely was that Jeremy and Dan sat with us, chatting away as we ate, providing more food tips and amusing tales.
On the way home, Ade promised me he’s going to make me congee soon, it’s pretty idiot-proof so he has no excuse. I made some fresh chicken stock yesterday, so all the hard work was done. As I type, he’s muttering away in the kitchen, making a mess and asking me if a tablespoon is ‘the big one or the small one.’ I knew this class would inspire him, and me.
Nearest station: Charing Cross (4 mins walk) Leicester Square and Covent Garden (5 mins walk)
We visited School of Wok as guests, this does not affect our review in any way.
We always write with complete honesty.