A group of leading chefs from Valencia, Barcelona and Bogotá have come together to open London’s first ever cooking school devoted solely to Spain’s most famous dish, paella.
The London Paella School aims to bring Spain’s rich culinary culture and social tradition to the city of London through weekly cooking lessons, a monthly Sunday lunch club and corporate team building sessions at the London Cooking Project, Battersea.
The school will reflect paella’s underlying values of unity, companionship and festivity by bringing together students from all cultures and enabling them not only how to learn to cook this traditional dish but also to exchange words in Spanish and learn about the origins of paella and Valencia’s rich culinary history.
Xavi Meroño, founder of the project, said: “We want to raise awareness about the infinite world of paella culture in the British community in a fun and accessible way. Our classes will provide students with a basic knowledge of paella and give them the tools they need to advance their skills to create more elaborate recipes in an environment of fellowship and teamwork.
These values, which are directly related to the tradition of this renowned dish, mean cooking paella in a group is not only a fun way to meet people and learn new skills but is also the perfect activity for team building”.
Paella and its origins
It is thought that paella is the union of two cultures from Spain – the Romans for the pan ‘patella’ and the Arabs for the rice that they started to cultivate near Valencia in the 10th century.
With humble beginnings as farm labourer’s food when it was cooked by workers over a wood fire at lunch, paella became more elaborate during the 19th century when living conditions throughout the country rose. Ingredients like chicken and rabbit were added, contributing to the infinite number of recipes now available, with variations depending on the area of origin.
There is an open and on-going debate between different locations to win the seal of authenticity but thanks to the work of organisations like wikipaella.org, which London Paella School chefs are ambassadors of in the UK, a consensus on the origins and ingredients has been reached.
London Paella School cooking classes
From 16th May 2016 cooking classes will take place every Monday, 6.30pm-9.30pm and cost £55 per person. Students will learn how to prepare a different paella and tapa each week and will sit down together at the end of the evening to enjoy their food and drink a beer.
Paella & Fire Sunday lunch club
From 15th May Paella & Fire lunch club will take place on Sundays on a monthly basis, 12pm-4pm. Guests can enjoy a different type of paella and tapa each week accompanied by a salad buffet. The events are BYO and cost £25 for adults, £12.50 ages 6-11 and are free for children aged five or under.
Corporate team building events
Paella team building sessions can be organised on an ad hoc basis
The school has chosen London Cooking Project as its venue for all activities – an open-plan kitchen and dining space and private social enterprise on the Ethelburga Estate in Battersea.
The kitchen works to provide opportunities to develop and nurture young talent in the field and is committed to education, community and sustainability. Profits from the project will be injected back into its charity partnerships including the Mini Cooking Club and The Battersea Canteen.
London Paella School chefs:
XAVI MEROÑO, Founder
After training at the Escuela Bell Art in Barcelona, Xavi gained ten years’ experience working in restaurants in Valencia and Murcia. It was here that he immersed himself in the rich paella tradition of the region and worked with some of leading experts in the field. He went on to become Head Chef at the Hotel Melia in London and was declared “Ambassador to the United Kingdom of the Paella” by Wikipaella.org.
MARLON DUARTE, Executive Chef at London Paella School and Head Chef at Marlon’s Kitchen
Marlon cooked next to some of the best chefs in Madrid and Valencia for over eight years. Sharing kitchens with Spanish culinary talent hasn’t made him lose his Colombian roots however. An expert in sous vide and a passionate chef for over 15 years, Marlon draws from his experience in South American, Mediterranean and British cuisines, to whip up his own Colombian fusion food with his own business, Marlon’s Kitchen.
JAVI VICENTE, Executive Chef at London Paella School and Head Chef at Little Taperia. Tooting
Born and raised in Valencia, Javi has the Valencian spirit in his genes and his career as a chef was obvious. He describes himself as a ‘Spanish chef anchored in London’. Passionate about food, he worked his way up in hotels back at home (Melià, Tuc Blanc, Hilton) and then ventured out to Switzerland and finally the UK. He is now Head Chef at the Little Taperia in Tooting and has his own food blog, MarchaVale.
Lana Borkowska: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07947914360