Mike attended a One Day with Nick Nairn Class at Port of Menteith, read his thoughts below.
Arrive at the school - amazing that something so cool and modern could exist amongst all these hillfarms. There's welcome coffee on arrival, as well as home-made shortbread. Meet the others on the course, and a few of the chefs come around to chat - much more relaxed than I thought it would be.
Nick welcomes us, quick tour of our work stations - brand new, gleaming, can't wait to have a go. Then we sit down to our first demonstration, cauliflower and Mull cheddar soup. Still slightly nervous, but Nick is great - very funny, very clear, with loads of brilliant tips, tons of anecdotes, and some fascinating stuff about sourcing and preparing produce. Now it's our turn, in pairs. I'm teamed up with Emma, and we have a real laugh preparing our soup. Nick and his chefs are always on hand to offer more advice. They couldn't make you feel more relaxed.
Leave the soup to simmer, and knock off for coffee, this time with gorgeous home-made scones, cream and jam. Chat with Nick and the others. This is turning into much more than just a cookery class. After coffee, Nick demonstrates a mussel and white wine sauce, to go with the halibut we're cooking for lunch. Loads of tips on shellfish, then it's our turn again - have a little taste, gorgeous. Can't wait to taste the end result.
Let the feast commence! We take our soup into the dining room - huge picture windows over the herb and veg garden, lambs in the field beyond. Feels like a Michelin restaurant. The soup would earn a star or two as well! Can't believe I made it. Lots of wine, lots of good conversation - people here from all round the world. Back to the kitchen for the halibut demonstration, then our turn again. Our pan's a bit hot, but chef Alan rescues us in time. What we end up with - pan-fried halibut with mussel and white wine sauce on a bed of mashed potato and wilted greens - honestly looks, and tastes, like something you'd pay £30 for in town. Massive grins all-round as we file into the dining room.
Gently sozzled now - feel like I've known these people all my life! Pudding next: hot raspberry soufflé. Nick shows us a brilliant five-minute method using carton custard and jam - cannot believe how well it rises, nor how fantastic it tastes. Want to rush home and make it for everyone I know! That's the cooking over, but Nick demonstrates two more dishes (seared monkfish with curried lentils and pan-fried lamb's kidneys), both of which we get to taste. Awesome.
Utterly contented, really excited - feel like my world has expanded. Swap numbers with Emma - going to cook each other dinner some time soon. Buy one of those handy food scrapers from the shop, book myself onto the next Asian cooking course, and head for home, dreaming up dinner party menus all the way.