Food at 52 Moves to Number 96: Flavours of Italy Reviewed

A couple of years ago I was invited to a brand PR event hosted in a beautiful cookery school called Food at 52.

Classes were run in the family home of John and Emily, located in a residential neighbourhood of Clerkenwell. The classic Georgian exterior masked an absolutely striking modern interior, decorated in a wonderfully idiosyncratic style, full to the brim of beautiful, strange and random bits and bobs collected on travels around the world and closer to home. The kitchen was large and homely, with an enormous 9 ring cooker, a large kitchen table, lots of pots and pans on open shelves and lots of light streaming in from huge windows and doors to the outside. There was a beautiful glass-walled courtyard living room and an outdoor garden area in which students could enjoy lunch and coffee breaks. I absolutely adored the house, and felt very much at ease with John and Emily, though the event I attended that day was taught by a guest celebrity chef employed by the brand.

I stayed in touch and a few months ago, John and Emily shared their news that they had moved the school to a dedicated new premises, now located between Angel and Old Street tube stations. They invited me to attend a class and check out the new school.

I was apprehensive about whether the new school could provide the same genuine charm and warmth of the original family home but needn’t have worried. John used to work in the film industry, running a set building company, which gave him the skills, experience and creativity to do the refurbishment of the new property himself and he’s created a teaching kitchen that manages to feel like a home.

Upstairs is a living room break out area. Privacy from passers by peering through the windows is provided by beautiful hand-crafted stained glass panels featuring photographic images of London printed onto the glass. Glass drop chandeliers, carried home from Morocco, throw patterns of light across the ceiling. And a full size suit of armour stands guard in the corner – do ask Emily the story of how he joined the family!

Although it’s in the basement, part of the ground floor has been cut away and a clever angled mirror bounces lots of natural light straight down and into the kitchen. That light falls onto an enormous sturdy wooden and Yorkshire stone table, made specifically for the space. It’s big enough to seat an army, so gives our class of 6 plenty of space to work.

Foodat52 A

A large range cooker and ovens sit under custom-made hoods that have Foodat52 cut into the metal. Against the walls are dressers and shelves holding huge jars of ingredients. Quirky art work adorns the walls as does an enormous mirror onto which the day’s menu is scribbled by Emily. Yellow roses sit in an old metal milk jug and a cuckoo clock keeps time.

Our class is taught by John, with a second member of staff assisting with measuring and getting out ingredients, cleaning chopping boards, knives and equipment and keeping us in caffeine throughout the day.

Foodat52Italian-0444 Foodat52Italian-0508 Foodat52Italian-0558 Foodat52Italian-0514

John is not a chef, but has always loved food and cooking. In fact, the school came about after family and friends asked for informal cookery lessons, which eventually lead John and Emily to launch the school in their home.

Today, we have gathered together to learn some Italian dishes.

I’m joined by a young lady with the most beautiful red hair, heavily pregnant and making the most of her free time before giving birth to her first child; a recently graduated engineer (or was it physics?) whose girlfriend bought him the course as a birthday present; a mother and daughter enjoying a weekend break from Scotland and a food writer / video-blogger, also reviewing the school.

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I’m impressed by the agenda for the day. We work our way through cantuccini (biscotti), home made pasta which we use to make tagliatelle pesto and butternut and amaretti ravioli, parmigiana di melanzane, chicken sofrito and amaretti semifreddo.

Everything is hands on so we properly learn how to do each step of the recipes. The only thing that’s been done ahead of time is to prep and bake the butternut squash for the ravioli filling. Everything else we do during the day. It’s absolutely the best way of learning and hugely enjoyable to get stuck in.

We stop for a quick bite of our freshly made tagliatelle pesto as a prelude to lunch but enjoy the rest of the courses as a late lunch at the end of the course. I love everything we make, so much so that I’m struggling to pick my favourite dish. I’m keen to make all of the dishes again at home, and better still, I have the confidence that I’ll be able to do so.

As well as covering the recipes themselves, John throws in basic knife skills for chopping vegetables and gives us plenty of helpful tips throughout the course.

His recipes are broadly classics, but his parmigiana di melanzane is a little different to any I’ve seen before; attractively stacked and the flavours are lifted more than I would have imagined possible by the inclusion of lemon zest.

Foodat52 C
Parmigiana di melanzane

The Flavours of Italy (10 am to 3 pm weekday) class I attended retails for £115 and at first glance, that seems a lot.

However, I’ve spent a fair bit of time comparing the offerings of different cookery schools over the last few years, and many of the less expensive classes are much shorter and cover significantly less. And some that are described as hands on run all the complicated bits as demonstration only, with the hands on experience covering only a fraction of the menu. Other classes have so much prepped for you that they are little more than an assembly job, or a case of stirring this into that. So, actually, the classes at Food at 52 are very good value because you get to do it all yourself and hence, you learn better.

Two hour classes over lunch or towards the end of the afternoon are available for £65. Of course, these cover less than the day class I attended, but John still packs in at least three recipes. On Saturdays, the all day classes are £135.

I’ve attended a lot of cookery classes in the last few years, and I would rate this amongst the top two or three.

Foodat52 B Foodat52 D
Cantuccini — Making pasta dough

Foodat52 E Foodat52 F
Tagliatelle — Ravioli

Foodat52 G Foodat52 H
Chicken Sofrito —
Amaretti semi-freddo

Kavey Eats attended the Flavours of Italy cookery class as a guest of Food at 52.

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22 Comments to "Food at 52 Moves to Number 96: Flavours of Italy Reviewed"

  1. Jane Willis

    The Authentic Morroccan class sounds interesting. I cook some “Morroccan” dishes already, and enjoy them, but I have no idea whether they are at all authentic. I’d love to try the real thing!


    I know John and Emily have spent time in Morocco and have come to love the food, so I’d imagine the dishes are very much based on authentic recipes.

  2. Natanya Abrahams

    I would love the Southern Indian cooking course. Coming from South Africa originally, our curries are very different – it would be great to learn something new #yum #yum

  3. Food Urchin

    I would definitely like to have a crack at the Southern Indian cooking and also have a crack behind that oven, bloody hell, it looks amazing.

  4. steve

    Southern Indian sounds good to me. I love food from that region and would be great to get some recipe ideas and preparation techniques!

  5. Ren Behan

    Such a well written write up, Kavey. Very detailed and definitely makes me want to go along. Great offers for the summer courses with 50% off. If I were to go, I’d probably try the Moroccan class, just because I adore Moroccan food, although I am tempted by the Southern Indian course too, and the Thai one…!


    Thanks Ren, was a very good class, do take advantage of the discount if you fancy giving them a go. x

  6. Carla Octigan

    I would be super happy to do any of these courses, I have done two already and both were great. The courses really are hands on and fun. John is a brilliant teacher and the new space looks fantastic.

  7. Simon Taylor

    It’d have to be the Spanish one. I have spanish friends, and I enjoy the hearty food and robust flavours as well as the variety. My favourite regional food by far.

  8. Sarah

    I would definitely do fish and seafood. I started eating fish again five years ago and I’m still learning about cooking it.

    Looks like an incredible space to be learning in, too!

  9. Nora

    I think I’d have to go for the Flavours of Italy course, mainly for that parmigiana di melanzane – it looks unbelievably delicious!

  10. miss mouse

    Hmm, a difficult choice, I would love to do any of them, if pushed, Italian, South India or Morocco or maybe…oh, you decide

  11. Heidi Roberts

    Morroccan for sure – I have been to Morrocco a couple of times and really love the food. I have been to Foodat52 a couple of times and love their style of class too.

  12. Susanne

    I would love to do the Southern Indian course because I love fish & coconut curries or Spanish because I love the food but have never cooked it.

  13. gina

    It would have to be the filled pasta for me. Brought up on dried pasta like any good Southern Italian, I feel the need to embrace the North of the country and have a crack at some fresh pasta. Plus, flour, water, eggs, mess – what more could a Chaotic Cook want?

  14. Julia

    I would love to attend the Fish & Seafood course. I have recently moved to the seaside and it had never been easier for me to buy fresh fish but I still make a bit of a hash at filleting and cooking the things so tips and advice to guide me in the right direction would be brilliant!

  15. thelittleloaf

    I would absolutely love to go on one of their courses – the school looks absolutely fab! My first choice would be fish and seafood – I absolutely adore cooking fish but have never quite got to grips with all the finer details. Second choice would be flavours of Italy, although I’d love to go on pretty much all of them.

    Are you open to bribery with homemade ice cream? 😉 Haha!

  16. Ailbhe

    Tough choice! I think one of the Thaii courses is what I’d most like but all look good. Certainly the fish course looks like something I need, but Thai I would love to be more confident about.

  17. A

    All of the options sound wonderful but would have to go with either the Southern Indian, Italian, or Thai…so not that definitive because they do all sound great.

  18. Katherine l

    I love that the cooking environment is friendly and welcoming! It’s an environment I’d be so inspired in!

    The Saturday Fish course appeals to me the most. With a busy schedule, a day in the kitchen is my idea of a great day after a long week at work! My grandfather ate fish almost everyday of his life and he lived into his 90s. Now my mother eats a lot of fish and I’d love to follow suite. The problem is, I haven’t had a lot of experience with fish and lack the skills the cook it. I’d love to get comfortable enough to work with fish and cook many healthy meals at home!

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