The international student experience at Birkbeck: Cooking up a storm

In a follow up to the School of Business, Economics and Informatics’ recent cooking classes at L’atelier des Chefs, students Nomvelo Mlotshwa and Mariem Ben Maallem share their experiences first hand.

“As an international student, the reason why I came to London was to catch a glimpse of the diverse cultures and traditions that are as diverse as the people at Birkbeck, University of London. The cooking classes for international students organised by William Richards have been such a wonderful opportunity to do exactly that.

I have been able to attend the cooking classes at L’Atelier des Chefs on Wigmore Street and all I can say is that it has been a wonderful experience to whip up something so simple and outright delicious in just under thirty minutes. The staff at L’Atelier des Chefs are so friendly and the chefs really make one fall in love with cooking again. The atmosphere of the cooking class starts when we meet at the Malet Street building, the laughs, the walk to L’atelier des Chefs has really cemented friendships that go beyond the class.

The cooking classes have allowed me as an international student to talk to other international students, make friends whom I would have not met as we are all from different levels in our studies. I have met undergraduate and postgraduate students from the Department of Management and this has made my time here at Birkbeck worthwhile.

Not that the time at the kitchen hasn’t come without freak accidents. My first time trying to look all cool and fast with the knife, I then had the knife go into my left forefinger. No one saw really what had happened because it all happened so fast but all I can say is that I have learnt a lesson or two from these classes!

Many thanks go to William and the entire team at the School of Business, Economics and Informatics.” – Nomvelo Mlotshwa, Sport Management (MSc)

“This cooking class is my favourite event and I have not missed any Friday class. We meet in front of our university and we will go together to the cooking class. It is a very nice walk where we look forward to what new dish experience we will have (and also to catch up on our life in London’s premier University😊), some of which I have cooked at home, to the delight of my flatmates.

Our exceptional plate this week was to prepare Japanese noodles with fish.

This was my third class, and I always have the same feeling, impressed by the chef and his passion for his work. As a start, the chef shows us all the steps to prepare our lunch, explaining all the ingredients that we will use for today’s meal. I like this chef, he is very energetic, very communicating, and he will continuously try to get all our interest by telling us the story behind each meal. He will make us understand every technique that he is using while cutting the onions or slicing the pepper. The chef was not only teaching us how to cook, but also sharing the best tips that he learned during his career.

The cooking class was about discovering new recipes, but also, about teaching us how to work in a group, it was teamwork! We were 5 members per table, and were sharing tasks between us, in order, to prepare our lunch. It is not a competition, but we found ourselves competing; who is going to finish the first using the same techniques as the chef, who the chef will say is best 😉. The funniest part of this class is that we all followed the same instructions, the same chef, but almost none of us was doing it in the same way. What is also hilarious, is that we were waiting for the first person to start so we all will follow, and copy, him or her immediately.

This meal was extremely delicious, like all the previous ones, but this time it was with a special flavour “orange”. I ate it all… everything I had on my plate, while also, of course, enjoying the interesting and different company, of fellow Birkbeck international, students. My favourite part was the dessert time. I wait excitedly for the surprise, because we do not know what we are having, but what I know is, that it is always very delicious! Let’s not forget the group photo; it is becoming a ritual to have a picture every time.

I will keep going to these classes because I am truly learning new recipes and I am always trying to cook the same thing at home. Sometimes, I am even adding my Tunisian touch 😎” – Mariem Ben Maallem, Business Innovation with International Technology Management (MSc)

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