Mauritius is a melting pot of culture, this beautiful island in the middle of the Indian Ocean is steeped in history and hidden gems. Having been under the rule of the British, French and Dutch as well as being a shipping conduit to India and China you’ll find a plethora of cultural experiences and influences.
One of the best ways to experience the local culture is through the cuisine and at Anantara Resort on the unspoilt, less commercial south side of the island you’ll find Didier Jacob, Executive Chef and foodie. Originally from Mauritius, Didier has a wealth of experience having trained in France under the guidance of Michelin starred chef, Jean Gorge Vongerichten, he’s cooked for heads of state including Donald Trump, partnered with Heston Blumenthal in Barbados and had a stint at Le Caprice. The Anantara Spice Spoons cookery masterclass run by Didier and his equally talented number two, Warren Domah, is an experience not to be missed.
As soon as you meet Didier you catch on to his passion for food, he has this amazing ability to make you look at food differently, he awakens your senses, getting you to experience the smells, the textures and flavours. His cookery classes are open to both hotel guests, locals, aspiring chefs and beginners.
The nation’s French, Creole, Indian and Chinese inhabitants have contributed to a unique culinary culture. Couple that with fresh locally sourced produce and a vibrant, knowledgeable chef and you have an authentic Mauritian cookery experience. The masterclass is around two and a half hours and you learn about ingredients that are synonymous with Mauritian food, as well as the cooking techniques and ethos behind the cuisine. It’s a fantastic way to learn about the culture, taste the local dishes as well as sharpen up your skills.
My lesson starts with some of the basics and one thing I’ve always wanted to do is that chef chop, you know the one where they chop up veggies at an alarming speed? I get a demonstration from Didier and soon pick up the rhythm of the knife and am chopping like a pro until I manage to catch my knuckle and cut myself, epic fail on my part. Apparently, I am scared of the knife and he’s not wrong, I am clumsy in the kitchen and have the scars to prove it. What Didier does brilliantly is build your confidence. A quick plaster and he soon has me chopping again, this time with assurance.
I was tasked with mastering the curry. My cookery station was jam-packed with herbs and spices all of which fill the kitchen with an amazing aroma. Because of the diversity of the island I was shown how to change a basic curry base into either a Thai, Malaysian or Mauritian dish. The pace of the class is just right and as you are taken through each step there’s lots of opportunities to ask questions while listening to anecdotal tales peppered with Didier’s tips and cookery secrets. It’s a relaxed, fun environment and before long you’ll be sprinkling spices and stirring like a natural. Once the masterclass is finished you get to enjoy your dish with a glass of wine and come away with a recipe file so you can cook up a storm at home and recreate your very own taste of Mauritius. Set in a nature reserve and with breath-taking views of the Indian ocean this is the perfect setting to learn to cook.
The Anantara Spice Spoons cookery masterclass can be booked via www.anantara.com
A stay at Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort costs from £335 (390 Euros) per room per night on a half board basis. www.anantara.com