go grab your apron
My name is Ben Fernmoor and I want to teach you how to cook like me. But why? What’s so special about my cooking?
Although I have been a professional cook for part of my working life, generally I am what most people would describe as a ‘good home-cook’. I grew up just as fast food, ready-meals and mass-produced processed food was really starting to take off. But I grew up in a household of parents who could cook. And they cooked well. Really well. So our family ate well too! Sadly, that gave me a life-long taste for good food that was well cooked. I find it very frustrating to go out for a meal and think to myself afterwards ‘I could have done better than that’!
As a child my parents preferred to shop for produce and ingredients that they could turn into fantastic home-cooked meals. We simply didn’t have the budget for convenience food or fast food. But I think we were better off for that. My mum cooks the most spectacular roast dinner and her short crust pastry is to die for. Dad’s specialities are chestnut stuffing, cheese souffle and stir-fry’s. But they can both pretty much cook anything they turn their minds to. Do they make mistakes or have catastrophes? Of course! Most cooks do. A good cook knows how to put it right though (or at least disguise the evidence!). My style of cooking is very much like my parents. Do I eat out or get takeaways? You betcha. It’s a nice break for the family cook.
Here’s what I think my cooking stands for: –
- I Love to cook (Well, that’s not strictly true – I usually love to cook. Sometimes I get so fed up in the kitchen, I either get a take-away or we eat a simple quick meal.) But I always love to eat. I love all food, from all over the world.
- Sometimes I want to enjoy several hours in the kitchen creating a masterpiece. Mostly though, I just want a healthy cheap home cooked meal in under an hour then put my feet up in front of Seven Sharp with the rest of the family!
- I like to buy local and seasonal ingredients. I don’t usually buy organic (I still have that ‘spend-thrift’ edge my parents gave me!) but I like to get fresh, good quality produce.
- I love a well-stocked store cupboard. It’s a comfort thing. I can’t tell you how many types of rice or pasta shapes I have, not to mention how many types of flour. Although kitting out a pantry is a big initial expense, once you have it stocked you know you can turn out several weeks of meals without going near a supermarket again.
- The freezer plays a big part in this. Many of my meals take shape using ingredients or components from the freezer. It’s a great time saver. I think a big freezer is as equally important as a big pantry.
- I like to plan meals in advance. I think the success of a meal is often in the planning. Likewise, the days that I loathe being in the kitchen are often days I just don’t know what to cook. Planning the weekly menu can really help with this. I use cookery books and tv cooking shows for inspiration.
- I have a fairly wide repertoire of dishes that I know I can cook and cook well. I seldom follow a recipe (except for bread and baking which require more exact measurements). The more you cook the more skill and knowledge you will develop. You know what works and what doesn’t. And why.
- Some of my food is experimental and new. This is when I often follow a recipe. Disasters do happen but often I get good results or at least something I can adapt and make my own.
- The bulk of my cooking are every-day recipes on a theme that can be adapted to suit what mood I’m in or what ingredients I have. These are a cooks staple ‘go-to meals’. These are the types of dishes I want to get you cooking in my classes.
- On days that I can’t be bothered to cook, we eat what I call a ‘Truckers’ meal. I got this term from a former workplace canteen that used to serve one healthy homemade dish and one dish that was essentially home-cooked fast-food. They called it the Trucker’s option. It may have been a burger or a slice of pizza but it was cooked on site and used fresh ingredients. At home I do open tins and packets. We had a jacket potato the other day topped with tinned Stagg chilli mince and cheese. It was great. Not especially healthy but it filled a hole. We are allowed these on the menu now and again! Its good to know you have a few last-minute stand-by dishes up your sleeve.
- Sometimes I go all-out and put on a lavish menu. Maybe for a special occasion or if I have time, energy and inspiration on my side. I like to impress and raise my game now and again.
- And yes, we go out for meals. And yes, often they are disappointing but sometimes you get a real gem and have to ask the chef how to make it (really). These are the times I leave a google review so others can share the love!
- My food is sometimes rich, calorie laden or full of additives – but usually its healthy (I know every ingredient that’s in it).
- My food is always cost effective, often economical. I can cook on a tight budget or splash the cash for some awesome ingredients. Likewise, I can cut corners and costs by sneaking in the odd convenience product. There is a meal in my repertoire for every budget.
- I like easy to follow recipes that work in reality (not just on the telly).
about my classes
I hope you will find a class that suits you. When I thought up the concept of the cookery school, I wanted to ensure there was something for everyone. We all need more wholesome tasty food in our bellies. I want to get you cooking and keep you cooking.
Its my strong belief that, like all practical skills, we learn how to cook best when we actually do it. I want you to leave each class with more knowledge, more skills and more experience. I want you to be a confident cook with self-belief and pride in every dish you serve. Above all I want you to have fun.
It is important that you pitch your skills at the right level course. Some classes need no prior skill or experience while others are aimed at more accomplished cooks. The skill levels of my classes are:-
To help you gauge your skill level, refer to the table below.
I can open a tin
I use a tin as part of a recipe
What’s a tin?
Choux pastry is a type of footwear
I’ve heard of Choux pastry
I can make Choux pastry
I can fry an egg
I can hard and soft boil an egg
My Hollandaise sauce is awesome
I own a can opener
I own a whisk
I own a Pasta roller
Recipes frighten me
I can follow a recipe
I adapt recipes
- I can open a packet
- I can fry an egg
- Recipes frighten me
- Choux pastry is a type of footwear
- I own a can opener
- I sometimes use packets in my cooking
- I can hard and soft boil an egg
- I can follow a recipe
- I’ve heard of Choux pastry
- I own a whisk
- What’s a packet?
- My Hollandaise sauce is awesome
- I adapt recipes
- I can make Choux pastry
- I own a Pasta roller
These classes are aimed at cooks who want to extend their repertoire for dietary reasons including:-
- gluten or egg-free cookery
- meat-free cookery
about my school
When nobody is learning to cook, my school is online and whizzing around inside my head!
However, when there are students brandishing spatulas and sizzling frying pans, my school is based in several third-party kitchens within Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand. These kitchens are well equipped facilities suitable for student cooks. All equipment is either provided by the facility or me.
To keep course fees as low as possible I ask students to bring along their own ingredients. A list of these is provided with each course booking. There is also the option (on most courses) for students to pre-purchase these ingredients from me ready for their course. For all the nitty gritty details I’m afraid you need to take a look at the Terms and Conditions – don’t worry, there is a quick version in simple language.
The cookery school is also more than this though. Every student who enrols in a course automatically becomes a member of ‘Ben’s Cookery Club’. This is a free online repository of all cooking related facts including recipes, ‘how to?’ leaflets, videos, reference charts, diagrams and materials and much more. All free to download for members.
My cookery school also encourages the sharing of ideas, photos, tips, advice, queries, successes and horror stories on our social media platforms.