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Celebrity chef Steven Saunders on opening his cooking masterclass on the Costa del Sol

Steven Saunders to replace column photo e

In a timely return to his food column, chef Steven Saunders – who’s cooked for the Beckhams, Naomi Campbell and the Queen – recalls setting alight a fish-smoking fridge during an infamous master class.

YEARS ago (in the 1980s) at my original Geranium restaurant, near Cambridge, I started up a cookery school.

Yes, I became a professor and we had enquiries from all over the UK including one from Jamie Oliver’s family, who lived nearby and often ate at The Pink Geranium.

As my wife Michele and I settle on the Costa del Sol – with two Geranium restaurants now, one in Marbella and another in La Cala – I thought it might be a good idea to re-kindle some of my old Masterclass magic.

It was fun to dig out my original school agenda and I certainly found a few chestnuts.
Back in 1988, for example, I taught my pupils how to smoke fish.

We did this by filling a tray full of wood chippings which we got very hot and smoky before shoving it at the bottom of an old disused fridge that I conveniently had standing outside.

It was a bit Steptoe and Son, but we used the racks in the fridge to smoke the salmon sides and it always worked perfectly… except for one time, when I opened the door to discover the tray and half the fridge was on fire.

EAGER: Jamie Oliver’s family wanted to learn
a thing or two from Saunders

While naturally horrified, I turned to the students trying to look as cool as a cucumber and said: “It’s always a good idea to get the smoke really going at first before toning it down.”

I don’t think anyone believed me, but looking back at the students on that particular course some of them ended up cooking professionally, with one a really famous chef.

I hear through the grapevine that he has mastered the art of smoking fish and meat at the table. I am not sure I can take any credit for that!
Things are a little more sophisticated these days at Saunders enterprises and we cure first, then use a smoking gun.
You can actually get the same effect by igniting the dried branches of used vines of which there are plenty over here!

Anyway, if you are looking to learn such culinary tricks – and many more – then why not get in touch for one of my special one-day Master Classes.

You’ll have a lot of fun, eat well and I promise you won’t burn a thing!

The Steven Saunders Master classes start on October 6 at the new Marbella restaurant. Tickets are 155€ and include tuition, a recipe pack, apron, three-course lunch and wines. For more information visit

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