Last week Wednesday, I was lucky enough to be invited to the London Summer Events Show in Banking Hall to participate in a cooking class with the pasta God, Gennaro Contaldo.
Since I began this blog ten months ago, I have been invited to so many exciting events and opportunities so when I received an email inviting me to a “bloggers breakfast”, full of networking with like minded people and an afternoon cooking class with THE Gennaro Contaldo at Banking Hall for LSES; organised by Venue Search London, I dropped everything – quite literally (Scotland, I’ll see you soon, I promise).
If you’re unfamiliar with Gennaro Contaldo, he is an Italian chef who was apart of the cooking series “Two Greedy Italians” with Antonio Carluccio and he taught protege, Jamie Oliver everything he knows since the young age of 15; Jamie walked into the restaurant Gennaro was running at the time, looking for work but was inauspiciously dismissed that morning, which was possibly a test to see how serious he really was. Come the end of the day, JO was still there and Gennaro was impressed with his work ethic and invited Jamie back the next morning which kicked started his career, and the pair have had a close personal and working relationship ever since.
As I arrived at Banking Hall at 8:30am, it was the usual, “we don’t have your name on our list”, and the first eye roll of the day happened, but you know, I’m pretty laid back and optimistic; as this was all kind of last minute, I understood the confusion and it was all cleared up and I was in there. The “blogger’s breakfast” was more like a fancy Costa counter with fruit an greek yoghurt, oh and wait, no where to sit, so I stood there, with my handbag, camera, cup of tea and a bowl of fruit and greek yoghurt; I think an octopus would struggle but hey, the fruit was de-licious!
After my fulfilling breakfast, I ventured out, it probably wasn’t even nine yet, so I had some major time to kill for Gennaro’s arrival at two, that afternoon. As I approached stands, received awkward smiles as they probably thought I was just a photographer, when I did get greeted, it usually followed with “Oh, you’re a blogger” and not much else, they had a look of “what are you doing here?”, and I began to question that too. I decided that I should double check that I was on the list to se Gennaro, because you know, everything else was going perfectly. And, you guessed it, I was… Not.
As I began to think my time and effort was wasted, Mide and her team at Jamie’s Italian and The Jamie Oliver’s Cookery School, had everything sorted and even invited me to have an earlier cooking lesson with Head Teacher, Tom at The Jamie Oliver’s Cookery School. Whilst I waited, I sat and chatted to Mide, who was so very welcoming and full of enthusiasm as she was telling me interesting stories about Gennaro and that he will make his famous burgers for the team on demand, what a terrible day in the office that must be. Before I knew it, time had flew by and it was time to make some pasta, yes!
If you keep up-to-date with my posts, you’ll know how intimidated I was by baking, then I got some decent scales and now its my favourite pass time, well I felt the same about the pasta, but once Tom explained that its simply 100g flour (tip 00 flour), some semolina and one egg per person, like how could I possibly get this wrong? He taught us how to use the pasta machine and that its important to feed the dough through the machine quickly, as it can become sticky and not manageable. We filled it with a green pea mixture and began to create different shapes of pasta: tortellini, ravioli and farfalle. The ravioli was the easiest, as we simply folded the dough horizontally in half to created a neat line and cut each end off to create a perfect rectangular shape. We then placed a teaspoon of the filling into one half of the dough, keeping each filling one finger width apart until you get to the other end of the pasta.
Then, we folded the other half of the dough over the filling and gently patted the two halves down around the filling to create a circle shape. Lastly, we used a ravioli cutting tool, to create a nice, traditional ravioli shape, ready to boil or dust with some flour and store in the fridge. For a better visual, watch this.
Fast forward to three and a half hours later and Gennaro was finally in the building, the crowd became bigger and bigger as he kindly took photos with fellow foodies. Gennaro began his demonstration with preparing the filling, this time it was butternut squash with ricotta, seasoned with salt and pepper, which looked ah-mazing. He spoke freely in a strong, authentic Italian accent, wanting to know more about the people that had come to see him; it generally felt like we were in his own kitchen. He caught me off guard, and asked me what I wanted to know about him, and it was one of those moments after that I kicked myself cos I came up with so many more GREAT questions to ask. I asked him “what his favourite pasta sauce was?”, which was a BIG no, no. He replied: “You can’t ask me that, there are thousands of sauces. It’s like I have twins and you’re asking me to pick my favourite, I can’t”, I quickly covered my tracks and asked about his hometown instead, Minori in Italy where he began working with food at the age of eight.
He made different pasta shapes with ease as he was cracking jokes, and helped those who were struggling a little. I could tell that he loved to teach, this wasn’t work for him, he was too comfortable with his soundings and he was great in front of the camera; this was a passion and an art, as each piece of pasta came out looking better than the last – impossible but true! Given the events in the morning, seeing Gennao Contaldo was well worth it. We loved being around him, his colleagues clearly loved to be around him and work with him. In a world full of Donalds, always, always be a Gennaro.
If you would love to have a cooking class like this, head over to The Jamie Oliver Cookery School, to get more information on special offers and group classes.