What’s it like at a Gorton’s Cookery Course session?

Me being me, I didn’t really read the blurb properly. I somehow assumed that chef extraordinaire, Peter Gorton, was going to do a 2-hour cookery demonstration and during that time we would eat lunch! Bingo!

Stupidly, I assumed I’d be finished by 1 pm as I thought ‘lunch’ would just be tasting various things, not a full-on gourmet delight, and thought to myself that £65 was not much bang for one’s buck for two hours. Of course, I was totally and utterly wrong on all counts and am happy to hold my hands up to admit it. Must read properly instead of skimming.

First lesson: Peter is a chef, not a magician – although there was a sprinkle of magic in the food he created. I was very impressed that Peter was amenable to having someone present doing Veganuary, which added an extra challenge. He is happy to cater for all dietary needs. Chefs actually like something a bit different, where they have to think of alternatives (I reckon).

I’ve always enjoyed Italian food although the usual pizza, pasta and garlic bread gets a bit boring over time, so I hoped to learn more about authentic Italian cooking at the Falcon. Probably the only thing that could have improved it was a background slideshow of places in Italy, but it would have also been a distraction, as I dreamed of where I’d like to spend my next birthday. In the event, I learned about all sort of things, including the usefulness of vanilla paste.

So, this was a fun, interactive demo to a small group (limit is 12). It started with a cup of tea and a chat so, while I turned up expecting to know no one, there were three faces I instantly recognised, and it didn’t matter anyway because it is the sort of thing you can go to on your own where you quickly get talking to others.

Then we sat down in a civilised but informal manner for the demo. Peter is, like most celebrity chefs, an entertainer, chatting away with his charming Welsh lilt. He started out at The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny and went on to become an entrepreneurial consultant chef after working at impressive restaurants in the south-west and attaining a coveted Michelin star. So, he knows his stuff. He was ably abetted by Head Chef at the Falcon, Aaron Vanstone, who is a little less of a performer, happier in the kitchen, but also a big success with his audience because he also knows his stuff and is helpful/answers questions

Aaron left, and Peter

Peter and Aaron started off by making fresh ravioli and giving us a chance to play with it, too. This was great fun and hands-on (nothing scary). But should we use flour or semolina to shape it? Various items were passed around for us to see, feel, smell, including Sicilian pesto and roasted balsamic field mushrooms. Part way through the demo, we had course number 1. Most had butternut squash ravioli with the pesto and wild mushroom salsa, while I had the roasted balsamic field mushrooms with brown rice pasta. It was delicious, and well-timed because all this talk about food had made me peckish.





The demo continued and we could ask questions while trying things. It was fun to learn kitchen tips and to watch experts at work making it all look so easy. I did wonder about all the washing up … alas, at home, that’d be my job, too!

When lunchtime arrived, the Falcon tables were set beautifully, for our remaining three courses, with wine, and tea or coffee, as the chefs retreated to their comfort zone, the kitchen. Service was impeccable so we felt we were on a grand day out.

The menu:

Most had seafood risotto with tomatoes, garlic and parsley. Mine was a vegan variation with beetroot and walnuts which was very scrumptious. The others then had chicken cacciatore with polenta and Caponata. I had a stuffed pepper with polenta and Caponata. Caponata is a Sicilian stew akin to ratatouille with all those gorgeous southern Mediterranean flavours. Finally, some had chocolate and pear amaretti tart and I enjoyed raspberry non-cheesecake.

At the end of the session (I was there for five hours!) I still had my recipe pack to take away with me and didn’t eat another thing for the rest of the day, so sated was I by this delicious food.  Everyone was full and pleased with a fun day, including one person who announced it was 5*+ – quite right!

Alas, I’m away for the baking session which looks amazing (meringues and all sorts) but I hope to attend more sessions in future, as I learned a fair few ideas and tasted new flavour combos. Like who knew deep-fried sage leaves could taste so good? And what is polenta anyway?

It was a real treat to sit and eat at such a beautifully presented table.

If you’re keen to learn new cookery ideas, fancy a day out, or just would like a fun demo and amazing 4-course meal at the Falcon (which is not intimidating at all – as I’ve often assumed it is –  but is actually a lovely place) then this is for you. Everyone was very welcoming, friendly and there for a wonderful cookery session – they were not disappointed.


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