Chef Stephen Jeffers has come up with a novel way of bringing his Forestside Cookery School to your home during the Covid19 lockdown with a virtual cooking product. Chef Jeffers at Home launched in early May, exceeding all expectations by selling out in a few hours. We spoke to Chef Jeffers as he opened-up sales for their first ‘cook-along’ box to get the lowdown on the inspiration and ethos behind this new initiative, what we can expect in the weeks to come, and most importantly – what are we going to be cooking!
Well, as it seems that it is going to be a while yet until we can open our cookery school again, we wanted to do something that kept us in touch with our customers but still kept the ethos of the cookery school alive so we came up with a 'Virtual Cook Along Banquet at Home’ delivered via a weekly Chef Jeffers at Home box. It is a marriage of the cookery school and restaurant food experience in the comfort of your own home, without the shopping and ingredients prep.
Each box includes all the ingredients for your meal along with a written recipe and instructions. You also receive a code to our ‘Virtual Cook Along Banquet’ video so you can cook your meal at a time that suits you but also getting a virtual cookery class. The recipe and video access are yours – you can re-create the meal at home at any time.
The video gives you a virtual masterclass with me cooking the themed menu for that week. You can stop and start it as it suits you. We want to give you control and the freshest meal possible and it is a treat (or it should be!), so the ingredients are all prepared for you and all you have to do is cook along with me when you are ready to eat.
Yes, we have plans laid out for different world cuisines, for example, our second box is an Italian theme and not to give it all away, the third week will most likely be a Mexician theme.
Yes, we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into ensuring that the virtual experience translates as close as possible to the quality of the cookery school experience. The video includes overhead shots to make sure that our home cooks can see all the steps clearly.
We will announce details at the beginning of the week on our new Chef Jeffers at Home social media channels, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with details on how to order and delivery times.
Initially we are covering North Down & Ards Peninsula on Friday’s and Belfast as far as Larne and Ballyclare on Saturday’s. Of course, if we get enough enquiries from an area in greater Belfast then it makes it feasible for us to expand our territory. We obviously want to keep the costs down for people, but we will keep everything under review! [Since we spoke to Chef Jeffers, the delivery area had expanded with a pick-up point at Sprucefield].
Well as I just mentioned, we want to keep these at a reasonable price point but still maintaining the quality product offering. The weekly themes will dictate the price but for example our first box, the ‘Asian virtual cook along banquet’ was £30 for 2 and £45 for 4. The price will vary each week depending on theme and ingredients required, but we will ensure to maintain good quality ingredients with a great home cook-along experience.
We’ve been blown away by the response and that is very humbling. Within a couple of minutes of putting the posts out on our social media channels, the phone started ringing and it kept ringing all afternoon. We had just a few boxes left to sell on the second day. [And that is a pattern which has been repeating itself into week 3 of the Cook at Home with Chef Jeffers boxes). We want to ensure that people have a great dining experience. We may all have to stay at home and it looks like some element of that will remain for a while, as even when we are allowed to open again, social distancing will mean that not only our cookery school, but restaurants and cafes will have a lower capacity. If these virtual cook along boxes prove popular, we will keep them going and we will keep bringing something new to them.
Yes, well as I said, we want to recreate the cookery school virtually as best we can. Our children’s classes were very popular, so we plan to do a Children’s Baking Box in the coming weeks too. We have lots of ideas up our sleeves!
I think you’ll agree there is no chance of leaving the feast hungry and there is also the added satisfaction of the achievement at the end of the virtual cooking-along. When Chef Jeffers is involved you just know you will learn something very useful for everyday cooking and kitchen skills.
Since we spoke to Stephen… we have been keeping in touch on a weekly basis. To give you more of a flavour of the themes:
Week 2 - Italian themed box included Sicilian style flat breads with roasted cherry tomatoes, ricotta cheese and fresh oregano. Chicken saltimbocca with Italian style roasted vegetables and wild garlic pesto, Espresso chocolate and honeycomb tart.
Week 3 - Mexican theme dishes included beef barbacoa tostada, floury tortillas, guacamole, tomato salsa, Mexican rice and beans, lime crema, ultimate Mexican brownie.
Week 3 - Kids Cook-A-Long box added to the offer (can be ordered separately) with a Kids pizza (family size Margherita with fresh mozzarella) and ultimate chocolate chip cookie pan.
Keep an eye out for further Food & Drink stories as we journal our way out of Covid-19 chatting to more of our innovative Lisburn & Castlereagh food and drink producers and ambassadors. Post your experiences and tag us so we can share and continue to support the food and drink sector.
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