“This area heaves in game of all sorts,” says Robinson, “from signal crayfish in the local rivers to muntjac in the surrounding woods. I’m a practical fieldsportsman and I supply much of the menu with game I’ve caught or shot myself. Most days we have customers who are also keen shots or fishermen but are amazed at what we do with game here. So I thought ‘There’s a need here for men who already cook but who want to move forwards from the simple roast pheasant or grilled trout.’ And that’s why I set up the School.”
Robinson’s Advanced Game Course is designed for the keen amateur cook who’s happy roasting birds but has little or no experience dealing with tricky meats such as wild rabbit or wild venison. The school takes up to eight clients for the one-day courses, with instruction given by Robinson and Oli Shute, who also runs Pot Kiln Anywhere, the outside catering branch of the business.
The day starts at the cookery school with a tour of Vicars Game, a game and meat outlet run by master butcher Alan Hayward at Ashampstead, three miles from the pub. “Here we see all the forms of game in their natural state,” says Robinson. “We show our pupils how a deer is skinned and butchered, and how cuts have to be cooked differently to give the best results. Back in the school, which is just 500yd from the pub, we kick off with students practising the butchery skills they’ve just acquired. They learn how to make proper restaurant-style stocks and sauces, then go through several cooking techniques: slow cooking, searing and roasting and, possibly, smoking. The dishes vary with the season but they will include rabbit with rosemary, garlic, white wine and olive oil; pavé of roe with pomme purée and a pepper sauce; and smoked or roasted pheasant or partridge.”
He finds teaching men easy. “There’s no doubt that blokes have really got into cooking in the last 10 years. Yes there’s a lot of hands-on cooking involved, but there’s also much laughter, a fair bit of drinking and far too much eating. In fact, they seem to find it so enjoyable that almost 100 per cent of clients come back to do other courses.”
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For more cookery courses and schools visit Billingsgate Seafood Training School.