Even if you are a good cook (or at least if you think you are) you can still always learn more: a cuisine you are not too familiar with, a new style of cooking, or a technique or two to make your life a bit easier in the kitchen. I love going to cookery schools to learn from the experts: when I left a previous job my colleagues gave me a day’s worth of cooking class at the famous Leith’s cookery school, and I have a voucher for a day at Rick Stein’s cookery school burning a hole in my wallet.
So when my ex-colleague and friend Jen Yong invited me to the soft launch of her new cooking and social hub ‘Jenius Social‘ I was delighted. Not only would I have the chance to learn about a cuisine I know very little about: Mexican street food, but I’d also have the chance to catch up with Jen and meet some new people, as one of the important (and quite unique in my experience) principles of Jenius Social is to ‘create connections through cooking’, so it’s definitely not just about the food.
I met Jen many years ago in her past life as a Project Manager for digital projects at AXA Investment Managers. We worked together on many projects, and Jen’s strict planning and organisation (and, dare I say it, bossiness – sorry Jen!) meant that her projects were always launched successfully. So it’s no surprise to me that she was able to use those skills to help her successfully bring her fusion of gastronomy and socialising to fruition.
I arrived early for the class so that I would have time to catch up with Jen and find out a bit more about Jenius Social, and she explained that she had been practically living at the North London HQ for the last few months while she worked on the finishing touches for her new venture.
Their building is in my old stomping ground, just off Holloway Road in N7 (two stops from Kings Cross station or a 10 minute walk from Highbury and Islington). It’s within spitting distance of Arsenal’s Emirates stadium, and surrounded by an ever-improving range of bars and restaurants, which are expanding north from Upper Street in Angel.
You walk in to a white and airy room which has large banks of tables, overlooked by shelves of top quality deli products, such as artisanal chocolate and pasta, vinegars and oils, and a fridge stocked with posh cheeses and meats. Through the large internal windows you can see into the separate cookery school section, which has the feel of a professional kitchen and is furnished with high-end kitchen equipment.
Our ingredients were already prepared, weighed and laid out ready for us to use. After a quick hello and introductions with our table-mates, we received a welcome from Chef Malcolm and then he put us to work to make tortilla dough for our fresh corn tortillas.
On our table we each politely encouraged eachother to take on tasks so that no one was seen to be doing too much or hoarding tasks, but we quickly had more than enough to keep everyone on the table occupied as we cooked tortillas, chopped veg for salsa, seasoned chicken for the fajitas, and fried mushrooms for the quesadillas.
Chef Malcolm demonstrated each task so that we could follow his tips and recreate each dish ourselves, and his assistant cleaned up around us so that the prep tables were always organised. The only dish we didn’t make ourselves was the mixed fish ceviche as that needed at least four hours to marinate in the citrus dressing, so that was prepared for us in advance. Two hours flew by and our stomachs rumbled as we moved back into the main room – in which the tables had now been laid for dinner – to eat our Mexican street food.
Over glasses of wine we feasted on our dinner – our team had made extra tortillas as we had some leftover dough and so we had exceptionally large portions of food, which was great as it was apparent that my new friends were as greedy as me!
We cooked, and ate:
- Corn tortillas topped with cheese and mushrooms (I left the mushrooms out of my one), guacamole and salsa
- Spinach and cheese
- Refried beans
- Chicken fajitas and sour cream
Even if I do say so myself, everything was absolutely delicious, and we had more than enough food to fill us up.
There was a genuinely convivial atmosphere in the room and the people on my table exchanged email addresses at the end of the night so that we could keep in touch afterwards. Whilst I think that the class can be improved by Chef Malcolm spending a bit of time at the start of the class explaining all of the dishes and ingredients in detail so we are all clear on what we will be cooking during the evening, Jen had nailed the social aspect of the evening before Jenius Social officially opens its doors.
It was a great idea of Jen’s to do a soft opening so that she could quickly see what worked well and what could be organised better, and I have no doubt that she has used that experience to refine their services so that everything is running perfectly – Jen always was a perfectionist. I’m going back to Jenius Social this week to attend a cheese masterclass with a friend, and I have no doubt that I will have the feeling that Jenius Social has been running classes for years, not weeks! I am looking forward to making new foodie friends and spending two hours learning about – and eating – cheese.
If you like cooking or eating, and would like to meet like-minded foodies and make some new friends, then I recommend that you attend a class at Jenius Social. You can visit their website for full details of what is on offer. They also offer events for teambuilding, hen nights, or you can just pop by for a drink and a plate of tapas if you happen to be in the area.
Jen invited me to attend the class for free as part of the soft launch, but I enjoyed myself at Jenius Social so much that I have bought tickets for the upcoming cheese masterclass which is taking place later this week.