UpDown Pop Up

          Cooks Academy closed out February with a sterling Restaurant night with Up Dn Pop Ups.

Stephen Gibson and Matt Perry are the dynamic duo behind the nights festivities and they are the two faces who are front row and centre when the three of us line up for our orders. As the Professional Cookery Class are put to work chopping and blanching and rolling, Kate, the woman in charge of the Front of House part of the evening, sets out to turn the demo area of the school into a 64 seater restaurant. That is no mean feat. I have to say when Kate and her crew of interior decorating magicians were finished the place looked stunning! Every inch the carefree Spring picnic that the “Cheer Up February” tagline promised.

Flowers and Checkered Bunting Aplenty


Such an incredible set-up


            As we busied ourselves getting jobs done and out of the way, the nerves began to mount a little. Between the three of us we all have a bit of restaurant experience at this stage so we knew something of what to expect. However we have never worked on the line in a kitchen during service, this will be a very new and very scary step to take this evening.

Claire forming handmade fusilli for the Smoked Eel Broth


Pulled Pork Beignets
Braised Octopus
Smoked Fish infused Soy Sauce
Cavolo Nero – Black Cabbage
Fried Quails Eggs
One of our beautiful aged timber serving platters

Between Stephen and Matt, most of the work was already taken care of by the time we arrived, leaving us nearly ready for service an hour and a half before we expected our first customer. On one hand this was fantastic as it allowed us to sit down for a bit and relax before the insanity began, on the other hand this was annoying as it allowed us to sit down and think about the insanity that was about to begin. Sixty-four people isn’t that many right? Right? Wrong.  I can assure you that as soon as the customers started pouring through the door our hearts were most certainly in our mouths. Friends, family, a minor celebrity or two. This was serious stuff. However, as nervous as we might have felt we knew nothing was going to go awry. So well organised was the menu and the prep and the front of house that nothing, not even the three newbie culinary students, was left to chance.

Second course of Stone Bass Sashimi


The Completed Plating


Battle Formations

And then like the test we feared and never studied for, it started. Canapes served and enjoyed by all. No problems. First course, went off without a hitch. Next thing we knew we were three courses in and everything was going swimmingly. There were problems yes. But nothing we as a team couldn’t handle. Every eventuality was catered for, every possibility was planned. The whole evening began to blur. One course bled into the next. Hours sped past. The whole event was done and dusted before I even realised we had finished the appetisers.


The evening was fast. The service was sharp. The food was incredible. The customers had a blast. We had a blast. It was one of the most interesting experiences I have had in Cooks Academy. It was so good we are already planning out next Pop-Up (or two). This is exactly the kind of thing I want to be learning. Each day we come in and learn principles from different world cuisines, classic sauce techniques or how to cater for dietary requirements. Each day we leave with even more of a love and a hunger for food and cooking. At this stage I am champing at the bit to get out into the restaurant world and really start applying what I have learnt. Things like UpDn Pop Up are the first step out into that big bad world, and so far, it seems like fun.

~ Mark O’Brien

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