Would you pay to cook when you eat out?

THE main pleasure of eating in a restaurant is normally the fact that somebody else is doing the cooking.

But a new Scottish restaurant is about to turn that concept on its head by letting diners make the dishes themselves.

The brainchild of Scottish-Italian businessman Domenico Del Priore, Cookie will be the first restaurant in the country which invites customers into the kitchen to prepare and cook their own food.

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Diners who volunteer for duty will prepare dishes under the eagle eye of a trained chef who won't hold back from providing helpful hints.

Staff will then serve the dishes to the rest of the temporary chef's guests.

Del Priore said Cookie, being set up in Glasgow's Nithsdale Road, is modelled on neighbourhood family restaurants in Italy and Austria which have tried the cook-your-own concept.

He claims that by opening up the kitchen to all comers he is eliminating the customary distinction between chef and diner. "We are seeking to break down the barriers between food production, distribution, preparation and consumption," Del Priore said.

"It is called 'horizontal cooking' and customers can come to Cookie for a whole host of occasions and cook for themselves, their friends or community group. It will act like a cooking club."

The number of self-cooks at any time would be limited to avoid overcrowding and to allow the restaurant's head chef to also prepare meals.

Del Priore admits, however, that the restaurant could have a hard time convincing diners to pay for the privilege of cooking their own food.

Opinion among food experts is sharply divided over whether cook-your-own will take off. Elizabeth Carter, editor of The Good Food Guide, said: "I have to say that I love going to restaurants and getting food cooked for me. In many ways, that is the point.

"But clearly this restaurant will be providing something that some diners want; that is, they want to be in a kitchen cooking with good ingredients, under the guidance of a top chef. They want to be involved in making the food. It really is a lovely concept and it offers something new."

But Sue Lawrence, food writer and guest cook on STV's The Hour show, believes that the idea of preparing your own food in a restaurant is simply "ridiculous".

The 1991 Masterchef winner said: "The only horizontal dining I do is when I eat in bed. I love going to restaurants and having the food cooked for me by a great chef.

"That is the whole point of going to restaurants. Opening up the kitchen to all comers means that the quality will not be as good as it should be.

"If you want to cook, do it in your own kitchen at home.

"If you want to go to a restaurant, sit back and let someone else do the work. Whatever next? Asking diners to come in and do the washing up?"

David Maguire, head of the Glasgow Restaurateurs Association, believes many chefs will object to the public gaining access to their kitchens.

He said: "There is no place for the public inside a professional commercial kitchen.

"Chefs are highly trained in food preparation, health and safety and a whole host of other disciplines. Letting a diner into a kitchen with none of that training is a complete non-starter.

"I'm afraid when it comes to this concept, I'm out."

Del Priore, an architect by profession, is undeterred. He has recruited a young head chef, Ian Wilson, who is committed to the new way of running a restaurant.

"This idea is totally floating his boat," Del Priore said. "He will be in the kitchen at all times to supervise and cook meals. But he's determined to open up the kitchen as much as possible.

"Ian is also in charge of our health and safety policies to make sure the kitchen is safe as well."