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Fishing for good marks at Auckland Seafood School

Somehow my brother, who lives outside of New Zealand, had the intuition to know that I would one day make the changeover from being a vegetarian to a fish-eating vegetarian and would need some guidance in how to cook fish. Through the magic of the internet, he bought me a voucher for a cooking class at the Auckland Seafood School. After waiting ages to find just the right time to do the class, I finally booked myself in. But what was I in for?

I had visions of being in a crowded kitchen and not being able to hear or see the instructor, heat and chaos everywhere. Who would I be working with, a control freak, someone who’d make me do all the dirty jobs, someone who’d talk over the instruction or find fault in my work? None of this emerged. In fact, the first thing that happened when I checked in was a welcome and a friendly motioning towards the wine table. “First one’s free”, she said smiling. I should have seen this coming. New Zealanders almost never have an event without some fabulous local wine. It’s one of the perks of living here.

Next we moved into the demonstration room. Brilliant. Having been something of a serial student in my lifetime, I was comfortable in this environment. My only problem was deciding on which to give precedent to, holding my wine glass or my pen. Using the little lecture theatre style fold out desk, I managed to do both. And the show began.

Our class was under the patient tutelage of Peter Chaplin. Among his endeavours as a chef are owning the Musical Knives restaurants in Auckland and Melbourne, and spending years on the road as a private chef to the likes of Madonna and other musicians who were looking for someone who knows a little something about vegetarian cooking (I can personally attest to the fact that there really aren’t that many around.).

The demonstration was clear and easy to follow. The room we were in had an atmosphere of calm and it was not intimidating to ask questions. Peter was forthcoming with lots of good advice, not least of which was how not to overcook seafood. But now it was our turn. Here we go!

We slowly worked our way out of the classroom and into the kitchen, awkwardly finding a group to join. “Is there a space here?”, “How many have you got? Can I join you?”.

My group consisted of me and four men (no, I didn’t do that on purpose!). We briefly introduced ourselves and got stuck in. Because we had two recipes, we divided the troops. I was in the scallop group and the others were doing the fish. With the mantra in my head, “undercook rather than overcook” (the inherent heat would finish it off) I became a zen member of my team.

After the team concluded that we had finished, and here’s the best part, we all sat down to eat and poured some wine leaving the washing up to someone else. Enjoyment of food, wine, and the company of others who were as interested in the subject matter as I was, was the nicest way to finish. We all agreed that we had been successful as a team and were feeling quite proud of ourselves. In the end, the only awkwardness was in everyone being too polite to take the last bite. But don’t worry, it did not get left behind!

Auckland Fish Market Seafood School
Peter Chaplin
Auckland Fish Market

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