Friday, 12 November 2010

Once in a lifetime opportunity :)

Lets start at the beginning...

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!

Hi Deborah

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!

Kind regards,


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, 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 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.
This was certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am glad I got to share it with some fabulous friends. I have signed photographs for the kids and they were almost as excited as I was 'Do you know my mams gone cheffing with a chef' to anyone that would listen from Ethan :)

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!


  1. Lovely post and thank you for sharing your lovely experience. I felt like I was there with you and so glad that you met the guy you liked and you liked the guy you met!

    Keep happy hon!

  2. OMG.. OMG... OMG.... How lucky are you...!!!!! sounds like you had a wonderful day... and i am so glad you found your email ...instead of giving all your personal details to the gentleman waiting to give you money... lol..!!!!!
    and wow.. what a swankie hotel...!!!! and Cheryl cole eat your heart owt...!!!! i know what you mean about the northern accent... lol..!!!! got one meself... lol
    and i will say it again... lucky you...!!!

  3. Wow!! What a great experience!!! I am glad you had such a great time!! You will remember it always!! Thank you for sharing it with us!!!

  4. You lucky thing............. I looks like you had the best time ever, what an amazing experience and one you'll never forget.
    I think this trip is worthy of a scrapbook album all of it's own.
    Congratulations honey.
    Ju xx

  5. I am so, so SOOOO happy for you! I get all giddy reading this post! Congrats, agan, love - you deserved that more than I can say! ♥

  6. WOWZA is all I can say Debbie! xxxx

  7. OMG My Hero! What a fantastic setting too, I pass that Hotel on the way to Chelsea footie club twice a week it looks sooo lush! yep I am from London.....

    My husband cooks me Ainsley spag bol regular its superb! Got the recipe off the telly once!

    You lucky lucky thing you!

  8. What an amazing experience, thoroughly deserved! I very much enjoy visiting your blog and reading/salivating over your recipes etc, so well done you!! Love Ainsley Harriott, so nice to see that he's a gent, after all the media frenzy going on at the mo with a certain other chef! Great pics too, thanks for sharing. xx

  9. Three cheers for you! I am so excited that you had a great day. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience.

  10. What a fantastic experience, looks like an amazing day!
    I remember seeing Ainsley on children in need (I think) years ago doing the full monty, oh my, he had one hell of a body lol.

    B xxx

  11. Debbie you're a star!!!! Brilliant post and many many congratulations on your well deserved win!

  12. Well done what a fantastic day, you deserve it your blog is such an inspiration.

  13. Wow how cool you look fab in the photos Ainsley looks sweet too I have to confess I have sang with Ainsley at the Royal Albert Hall and yes he is a gentle giant and a true gentleman He picked my mate up and swung her around all she could say was oh Ainsley I have your cereal bar in my bag. hilarious love Blossom x


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