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Mike Matthews: Behind the Scenes at Codorniu's Barcelona Supper Club

Published:  22 June, 2012

Got an email the other morning, would I be interested in covering a food & wine event in London? I'd get the chance to learn about Spanish cooking, do a bit myself (worrying), and sit in on a sparkling wine masterclass. How could I say no!

Got an email the other morning, would I be interested in covering a food & wine event in London? I'd get the chance to learn about Spanish cooking, do a bit myself (worrying), and sit in on a sparkling wine masterclass. How could I say no!

The Barcelona Supper Club by Codorniu is a Facebook group dedicated to celebrating all the best of Barcelona. They held their first event of this kind late last year at L'atelier des Chefs in Wigmore Street, London. This time round the Waitrose Cookery School in London was the venue, hosted by Codorniu brand manager, Carolyn d'Aguilar.

As I waited for the guests to arrive it gave me the opportunity to snoop around and nibble at the salted nuts and lightly spiced toasted bread chunks dotted around. The venue was opened in November 2010. It houses a purpose built lecture theatre, open kitchen and large function/dining room area. The facilities are available to hire for both public and corporate events, currently it is booked solid until the end of September 2012, fairly impressive.

The chefs are equally impressive. Coming from Michelin starred backgrounds, our teachers for the evening were head chef, James Campbell and, padawan, sous chef Jon Jones, for every master must have an apprentice, (apologies for the Star Wars reference there).

The evening was split in to three sections, Jamón Carving with Spain's very own Chuse Valero, a Spanish cookery masterclass by the Waitrose chefs and finally Codorniu's "Fizzness School" with Codorniu managing director, Nick Mantella.

To accommodate this, the party of 50 were split in to three groups. One group started off in the kitchen producing a course for the evening's dinner, another attending the carving Jamón lesson, and the remainder learning the finer points of Cava.

Each section lasted 40 minutes with the culmination, a three course meal, riskily, cooked by us.

First up for me was the "Fizzness school", an introductory lesson explaining how sparkling wine is made. As someone who does the odd occasional bit of teaching I found Nick's methods excellent. His explanations were clear and he didn't over complicate the session with a load of technical jargon.

Five wines were put out for us to sample whilst Nick gave an explanation about all of them.

In order of tasting we had; Codorniu Brut, Codorniu Selección Raventós Brut, Anna de Codorniu Blanc de Noirs, Codorniu Reina Maria Cristina Blanc de Noirs Reserva and Codorniu Rosado Brut.

Now, listening and watching someone carve Jamón wouldn't normally be my idea of an interesting subject, probably just ignorance on my part. Chuse Valero on the other hand, well, that's something else. The second part of my evening was spent listening to Chuse talk about his craft.

He explained the differences of selected cuts of meat from one piece, how curing works (our piece of meat was at least six years old), the life of the animal and how it's cared for, the best areas for livestock etc.

It's a science! The way he would talk about texture and flavour was very reminiscent to how I'd talk about wine. My group found it all very interesting, very keen to ask questions and participate where they could.

Lastly, before dinner, I had to don my pinny for the cooking segment. All the ingredients were set up for us to create the main course, Saffron seafood paella.

I partnered up with another guest, Paul, whilst Chef Jon Jones instructed us in what to do. It was a very easy procedure and like Nick earlier with the wine, he was very clear, concise and easy to follow. From a personal perspective, I don't like seafood! This wasn't a problem though. When I first arrived and saw the menu I mentioned to the organisers that I didn't eat seafood. They were very good in creating seafood free paella, just for me. Nice!

The overall experience was superb. Well worth every penny. Carolyn and her team put together a highly entertaining evening. The transfers to each section were timed very well, so there was no waiting. Speaking to some of the guest during the course of the evening, they really got stuck in where they could.

Some were repeat visitors, having attended the first Supper Club, others discovered the event via word of mouth. The atmosphere created gave it a party feel. Let's not forget the food and wine. Each wine was selected to go with the individual courses, and they worked extremely well.

Timing was definitely the key to running an event like this. Keeping people moving without waiting allows attendees to remain fresh and eager for their next segment. Also, keeping the glasses charged with great Cava helped too. Good show!!

* Mike Matthews is an indepdendent wine merchant at North & South Wines, Battersea, London