I was happily pressing refresh to see if I have new emails (...isnt it wierd how you feel comforted even when its only promises of bigger appendages, security warnings that your swiss bank account has been hacked....oh and dont forget the lovely gentleman who is waiting to send you £3million as soon as you have over all your personal details!) when low and behold an actual real email from a real person came through!
I am getting in touch to tell you that we have chosen you as the winner of our Final Ainsley Masterclass! The winner that we announced earlier in the week could not make it and therefore we would love to invite you to come!
We feel that you thoroughly deserve to win our Ainsley Cooking Masterclass grand prize as you have uploaded lots of events and have posted some fantastic recipes and photos of your family and food!
The masterclass is in London on the 9th November and fully paid travel and hotel for you and 5 friends will be covered. I know it is short notice, but would you be able to make the day?
Please get back in touch with me asap!
OK DEEP BREATH!
After a chat with my gorgeous hubby I was pursueded into going but didnt have time to panic as it was all happening so quickly. After rallying round 5 ladies who could get time off work, I sent back a confimation email and the giddyness began! Lots of emails were passed backwards and forwards as we tried to organise travel schedules, overnight accommodation, cars, meetings etc.
Monday morning came and as the postman was about to knock on the door I whipped it open and stood with a beaming smile 'You must have been expecting this, I have something for you to sign' and with that my first outburst was made 'Its train tickets!! Im going to London to cook with Ainsley Harriott!! Im so excited!!'
He didnt even look up! No reaction, no 'wow', no nothing! Just 'sign here' Im pressuming at this point he must hear about random celeb meetings all the time and I flounced off to get dressed, head for the train and the beginning of our adventure! lol
There was Jane, Claire and Myself travelling down from Durham to Kingscross and since I have only been to London twice before (shameful I know!) I was rather excited! We broke out the wine and chatted all the way there, giggling like 3 kids on the way to meet the Tweenies! We met another 2 girls at the train station and headed via taxi to our hotel......now, I knew the name but didnt want to look it up on the net as I wanted to be suprised. If it was a Travel Lodge then cool, all we were told was B&B was paid for so anything with a roof and food was fine at this point!
We pulled up outside of the Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel....gulp! To say it was beautiful is an understatement, lets just pretend I frequent these places all the time and say we didnt jump on the beds and we didnt permanently borrow the toiletries!
The night finished up with a fabulous Italian meal in the most adorable (and quite frankly rather posh) restaurant near Sloane Square......Seafood Linguine, Panna Cotta and wine flowed via a few lovely waiters who took the time to make a fuss of us :)
Back at the hotel as soon as my head hit the pillow I was gone! When you hit 1000 thread count sheets all thoughts of the reason you're there dissapear - all thoughts of everything dissapear! lol
The next morning, dressed and a couple of hours to kill before we were to be met for our date with Ainsley we decided to hit the shops and grab a couple of his cookbooks for him to sign.
We didnt know it would take us to the other end of Sloane Square to find a bookshop....we didnt know it was going to rain....we didnt know that it would be SHEET rain by the time we got back to the hotel!!
Looking like drown rats we walked into hotel where the receptionist took one look and exclaimed 'We NEED to get you dry!' After a lot of hospitality and a quick whip with the hair straighteners we were ready to go and to be honest I think it was the best thing that could have happened as it made us lose track of any nerves etc!
We pulled up to Mossimans Cookery School and as we had taken the scenic tour we ended at the back of the building unsure of where to go, we spoke with the adorable Sarah from Grayling who had organised everything and she assured us we were there. We pulled around to the front of the building and low and behold there was Ainsley waving us in from the window! That set the whole mood for the day and we honestly felt completely welcome and at home from setting one step inside the building!
We were greeted with kisses and hugs, lots of congratulations and warm welcomes, coffee and chat. There was a large table set out ready for dinner and we all had our own workstations prepared. After sitting down for introductions we all donned our pinnies and headed to our stations ready to start on the dessert. Dessert was baked while we made our starters and our starters were eaten while the main meal was cooking.
Starter : Smoked Duck with Orange & Pomegranate saladMain : Carribean BouillabaisseDessert : Coffee BriocheWe were filmed all day for the Nescafe Dolce Gusto site and had to all stand there holding our finished plates saying the names (do you know how hard it is to try and say bouillabaisse without a strong northern accent!! I thought someone had brought Cheryl Cole in the room at one point!) ;)
I wont go through all the step by steps but we learned how to safely scorch a tomato to remove the skin, how to cut an orange so you can take out the segments and lots of other little snippits that shortcut many a tedious prep requirement. As well as learning how to not be shy infront of cameras and think 'Who cares if i forgot to curl my eyelashes...im cooking with Ainsley Freakin Harriott!! '
(do you like the 'Welcome to Cooking with Debbie' pose! lol )
After very little persuasion Ainsley recreated his infamous Suzy Salt and Percy Pepper moves - and boy can this man move! He may be almost 7ft tall (slight exaduration but at only 5ft 1 he towered above me!) but that doesnt stop him playing up to his hip swivelling, Caribbean singing persona. This man is such a gentleman and simply comes across the way he is portrayed on TV, he is certainly not an actor - no one can act THAT nice all day and still have a smile on his face whilst on the way to judge on a curry cook off! He would stop everything and pose for photographs with everyone during each step and seriously couldnt do enough to make our day special.
I know you wont ever see this Ainsley but I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you, not just for the day but for being such a lovely warm and REAL gentleman. You lived up to your tv persona and made us love you all the more. I hope one day to keep my promise of inviting you to my own book signing - it was a promise after all!