"If you are interested in cooking there is always a skill to be found, you can always achieve something," says Gary Rhodes to his somewhat nervous group of 9 'students'.

By Robert Flemming (Staff Reporter)

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Published: Thu 25 May 2006, 1:26 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 4:51 PM

"I hope you as a team are raring to go, but, by the way, it's your fault if you don't like the food; you'll have cooked it," he says with a grin. "Cooking is absolutely not about making life difficult, it's about taking the right ingredients and drawing out the maximum flavour and creating taste." And leads them off into a domain of hot burners, steel tables and sharp knives.

The last of the three master classes held during the Festival of Taste at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, it's Gary's turn to instil a few skills. And one of the first lessons that any budding chef must learn is how to use a knife.

'I always take my own knives everywhere. They're something very personal because you get the feel of your own knives; you always cut at the same angle and they work with you. It's a matter of how you use the blade. Don't overwork the knife, it's here to do a job. Use it gently and don't push too hard. That's what makes the quality of the cut. With herbs, (other than flat leaf parsley) use a light pressure because otherwise you'll crush them, discolour the leaves and you lose half the aroma and flavour. You need to glide the cut through crisply to retain all that flavour. Cooking is all about detail and if you understand that, you'll be a much better cook.'

Today's menu might not seem that difficult at first glance: pan-fried fillet of red mullet with seared oranges and spring onions followed by langoustine and trifled macaroni cheese. Armed with recipes and instructions from the maestro it should be easy. But only to those who hear, listen and apply.

'Well, it is going to be a little different,' he says to one student after tasting the simmering liquid in her pan. Then calmly adds a large slug of orange juice to the contents.

'You are meant to put the cream into the mash,' he says to another with just a hint of resignation, 'otherwise it'll burn.'

Fortunately there are no serious disasters: the students' final plates do seem to look right and our new chefs appear to eat with relish. In fact it's more like a dinner party than a cooking class. Obsessed by cooking on his own admission, Gary simply likes to share his passion and his enthusiasm is catching. 'I got on better than I thought,' says Alison Bailey. 'It was exciting and not dumbed down for the public as I thought it would be. I'm really impressed that it wasn't like that. It is about the food and learning to cook and it's about taking things away that we can use at home.'

The class was a birthday present for fiancee Anthony Weaver who was equally delighted by the day but had one minor reservation.

'Problem is, we're getting married in a month and this festival isn't doing us any favours,' he says patting a full stomach.

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